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Coffee: A Dark History [Kindle Edition]

Antony Wild

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Book Description

Over thirty thousand copies sold worldwide, translated into Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and French. This foreword to this new 2013 eBook edition gives the full background to Wild's inadvertent creation of the kopi luwak industry in 1991, his involvement in the BBC undercover investigation into the trade, and the "Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap!" he has founded to get it banned.

“...with a dry wit and an admirable muckraking spirit, Wild more than does justice to a story rife with injustices.” Newsday.

"He writes with (a) wry touch that makes his book a pleasure.” Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"Antony Wild's "Coffee" is as rich and complex as the brew itself.” Carlo Wolff, Boston Globe

“....this polemical, grandiose, yet thoroughly entertaining book...” Mother Jones

“...Coffee is an elegantly written, even witty book, so wide in scope, so rich in detail, so thought-provoking in the subtle way that it develops its central thesis, that it is a challenge to do justice to it.” Joanna Blythman, The Sunday Herald

“...full of fascinating anecdotal detail about our favourite stimulant.” The Ecologist

“...a strong espresso of a thoroughly-researched, hugely informative history of the dark side of coffee...” Geographical

“This masterful and exhaustive work is about much more than history. We’re also treated to eye-opening lessons in economics, ethics, culture and science...” Jennifer Cunningham, The Herald

Arguably the most valuable legally traded commodity after oil, coffee's dark five-hundred-year history links alchemy and anthropology, poetry and politics, and science and slavery. Revolutions have been hatched in coffee houses, secret societies and commercial alliances formed, and politics and art endlessly debated.

With over a hundred million people looking to it for their livelihood, the coffee industry is now the world's largest and the financial lifeblood of many third-world countries. But with world prices notoriously volatile, the future is always uncertain. In this thought-provoking exposé, Antony Wild, coffee trader, novelist and historian, explores coffee's dismal colonial past and its perilous corporate present, revealing the shocking exploitation as the heart of the industry.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1749 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wild Books (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007Q2IMDC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #561,709 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Enlightenment in this Dark History 12 Feb. 2008
By Penumbra - Published on
Apparently "Coffee: A Dark History" was written by a man who didn't take his mother's advice and may actually have believed everything he read. Speculation, legends, myths, semi-documented accounts, and a smattering of facts all seem to be given equal weight in this book.

One gets the feeling that the author wants to believe that coffee use goes back to antiquity, even though he tells you he can't provide any evidence of that. More than once there is a vague reference to the Biblical "forbidden tree of knowledge" which could have! In fact, any time a dark beverage is mentioned in any ancient writings it might have! (Though a reading of the context usually indicates that it was not.)

The book presents material such as the discredited German study from the early 90's which claimed an analysis of the hair of 3000 year old Egyptian mummies contained cocaine and nicotine (but not caffeine). There is no scientific or historical support suggesting the ancient Egyptians had access to New World plants like coca or tobacco, but the total absence of caffeine fails (once again) to prove the ancient world drank coffee. There is no reason to even give it a one line mention in the book. Elsewhere there is mention of Islamic Arabs in the 5th century, although Mohamed wasn't born until the 6th century.

When so many of the author's "facts" are in error, it's hard to know when he may have gotten something right. (Even an blind pig finds the occasional truffle, right?) If you really want to know something about the history of coffee, consult at least two other books after reading this one.

To add insult to injury, it's not even a lively or entertaining read. Not recommended.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, more like a text book. 7 Aug. 2005
By Jennifer A. Wickes - Published on
Library Journal

Wild (The East India Company) has been widely recognized for introducing specialty coffees to Great Britain. Here, he presents a 500-year history of the much-loved drink, drawing on science, politics, anthropology, and alchemy before concluding that today's large companies, with their demand for lower prices, have put coffee farmers out of business and thousands of workers out of jobs in Africa and Central America. Wild's explanation of how major corporations have taken over the coffee industry, supported by public information direct from the coffee distributors themselves, will inspire readers to comtemplate their contribution to this global situation. The only comparison would be Stewart Lee Allen's The Devil's Cup, which describes similar facts but from the first person. With its political and historical perspectives, this book reads more like a textbook. Recommended for academic libraries; an optional purchase for others.-Jennifer A. Wickes,, Pine Beach, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Coffee: A Wild History 3 April 2006
By A. Geier - Published on
I recommend that you peruse the pages of this book at your local library or book store prior to purchasing. The author has compiled 308 pages of supposed facts, ideas, opinions, and "objective illumination." No doubt some of the data provided is true and the first 83 pages engross the reader to the beginning of the history of coffee. Unfortunately the narrative then seems to fall apart not because the information may be false or questionable, but rather the author goes off on tangents which seem to simply fill up the pages. Is Rimbaud's influence on Bob Dylan and Patti Smith necessary in the discussion of coffee?

There comes a point when the reader realizes that the author's writing is more of free flow of thoughts and assumed facts. Add to this the lack of citations and notes (which the author fully acknowledges) and the book becomes a jumble of many figures, dates, places and people that lacks organization.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coffee is not another «poor versus rich» thing 11 April 2008
By Joao MOTA de CAMPOS - Published on
There are some excellent books about coffee and its history. Some books about its politics and some about the business it engenders. Most of non technical coffee books tend to be a little biased against the rich world. This one is no exception.
Poor world producers and rich world consumers are the two sides of the same coin and as a matter of fact, unregulated, this market tends to behave like any other market: supply and demand drives it.
The fact is that Vietnam entered the Market «en force» in the nineties and suddenly the coffee world changed. Supply shot up overnight and demand, although it increased did not set up the supply surge. Thus, prices went down.
For those who know the coffee market, boom and bust is the rule. A surge in price would trigger a surge in production as new land would be put to use for coffee growing thus generating a supply bubble. Therefore, prices would fall, land would be set aside for other uses and people would go out of business. With or without ICO that has been the rule throughout the XXth century.
The thing is that coffee works in five years cycle, that is the normal time for a coffee tree to grow to mature production, and therefore to yield new coffee on the market until there is too much. These cycles are extremely difficult to anticipate - those who would do it would be billionaires - and are subject to hazards like frost or markets busts.
But the nineties also saw the coming of age of specialty coffees and the glorification of the Arabica kind. Suddenly, Blue Mountain or Kona coffees would fetch stratospheric prices.
Another piece of the puzzle is that coffee distribution is one of the most elaborated and financially demanding businesses, conducing to a huge concentration of the market. It therefore appears as if big corporation was after poor people profits.
This is a market where no evident truths are forthcoming and the most useless thing to do is to blame the rich, amongst which the inevitable US of A.
That Vietnam wanted to have a try on cash crop production is not the fault of Capitol Hill, and that they were hugely successful still less.
I think this book which enlightens some aspects of the coffee trade is trying to find culprits but offers no solutions. In ten years time, when the trend will have reversed and back again, Whose fault will it be?
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spider shouldn't drink it 9 Jan. 2007
By Arthur Crown - Published on
Antony Wild's (2004) book is The Good Tea and Coffee Company book of the month for January 2007.

At the outset, it claims to be a 'dark' history and it certainly doesn't disappoint in that respect.

Though sounding a little extravagant in portraying coffee as the 'forbidden fruit' in the Garden of Eden of the Old Testament, each chapter touches on sensitive ethical issues which are moving ever higher on the priority list of European consumers.

Tracing the origins of the cultivation of coffee back to the Yemen and the early attempts to create plantations elsewhere by The East India Company, we are taken on a journey of unexpected complexity as coffee finds its way into the social and religeous infrastracture of every continent it touches.

By the end of the book, we've had a lot more for our money than simply history. Antony Wild makes us look anew at something we have grown up with and almost taken for granted. He gives us the tools we need to think again about coffee - to bring it out of the darkness.. and into the light.
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