Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive business and social history of coffee, describing how coffee has dominated and molded the economies, politics, and social structures of entire countries. 40 illustrations.

Excerpt

O Coffee! Thou dost dispel all care, thou are the object of desire to the scholar. This is the beverage of the friends of God.

—"In Praise of Coffee," Arabic poem (1511)

[Why do our men] trifle away their time, scald their Chops, and spend their Money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty bitter stinking nauseous Puddle water?

—Women's Petition Against Coffee (1674)

It is, after all, only a berry, encasing a double-sided seed. It first grew on a shrub—or small tree, depending on your perspective or height—under the Ethiopian rain forest canopy, high on the mountainsides. The evergreen leaves form glossy ovals and, like the seeds, are laced with caffeine.

Yet coffee is the second most valuable exported legal commodity on earth (after oil), providing the largest jolt of the world's most widely taken psychoactive drug. From its original African home, coffee propagation has spread in a girdle around the globe, taking over whole plains and mountainsides between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. In the form of a hot infusion of its ground, roasted seeds, coffee is consumed around the world for its bittersweet bouquet, its mind-racing jump start, and social bonding. At various times it has been prescribed as an aphrodisiac, enema, nerve tonic, and life-extender.

Coffee provides a livelihood (of sorts) for over twenty million human beings. It is an incredibly labor-intensive crop, with all but a tiny . . .

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