* this is lively, interesting stuff, laced with dry wit and canny observations. Scotland on Sunday * Stewart Lee Allen certainly delivers ... he cuts a caffeine-fuelled arc that runs from coffee's Ethiopian origins, through its Arabian distillation, across its European domestication, before terminating in a cross-country search for the worst cup of American coffee ... a funny book that takes some funny routes. The Independent * Two parts travelogue and history to one part caffeine-fuelled theory ... From the genteel cafes of Vienna to wired, late night email conversations on the internet, the book celebrates coffee's ability to sharpen the mind and give society a jolt. Not just mocha do about nothing. The Face * I loved this informal bio of the humble cup of joe... Allen's funky history provides the answer and sets the standard. Sunday Herald
From the Back Cover
'Two parts travelogue and history to one part caffeine-fuelled theory ... From the genteel cafes of Vienna to wired, late night email conversations on the internet, the book celebrates coffee's ability to sharpen the mind and give society a jolt. Not just mocha do about nothing.' The Face
Coffeepot give us peace / coffeepot let children grow / let our wealth swell / please protect us from evils / give us rain and grass Ethiopian Prayer
Magic cup / carry me above the traffic jam. Keep me civil in the subway / And forgive my employer, as you forgive me. Amen A Western Prayer
Stewart Lee Allen makes the very convincing argument that civilisation is largely based on coffee drinking (or chewing). Until the art of coffee guzzling arrived in the great cities, the only way to quench a thirst was to drink ale, which is hardly the best method for keeping rational, and beery philosophy is rarely watertight in the sober light of day, whereas caffeinated, over analytical thought, makes serious progress.
Allen traces the development of world wide coffee consumption by travelling to all the places of historical significance, for this particular subject. Starting in Ethiopia, continuing through Northern Africa, over to Asia, becoming involved in art smuggling and illegal passport wrangling, and off to Europe. There he covers revolutions and enlightenment. And then finally to America, in search for the most soulful coffee he can find.
Repeatedly likened to a caffeing fuelled Gonzo, this story is both incredibly funny as well as thoroughly educational.
Stewart Lee Allen was born in California, and has lived in Kathmandu, Sydney, Brooklyn and Calcutta. A widely published journalist he is also the author of an acclaimed collection of stories, The Art of Rape.