Top critical review
Patchy with not enough research done - interesting in places
on 1 December 2013
There are some interesting facts peppered throughout this book. The author traces coffee from its Ethiopian roots through its first commercial cultivation in Yemen and through the Ottoman Empire where it branches off in various directions, sowing the seeds of dissent and revolution in Europe's coffee houses.
Antony Wild makes many interesting connections between history and its famous figures and the manufacture and consumption of coffee with some interesting passages on Napoleon (and his exile on St Helena), the French writer Arthur Rimbauld, the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
The final chapters deal with modern coffee production, linking in slavery and genocide before giving us a run-down on today's (or 10 years ago when the book was written) coffee-producing countries and how naughty we are in the West, particularly the USA and their various intrigues in Central and South America.
What this book lacks is a little discipline. Although engaging in parts, it frequently falls apart though Wild's lack of experience as an author, with some poor research and tenuous links such as stating Jim Morrison's age (at the time of his death) was 37, when most people know that he died at 27. And why was Jim Morrison mentioned at all? Because Rimbauld (the only famous coffee merchant apart from Antony Wild) was apparently an influence on the Doors singer. This kind of thing happens quite frequently throughout the book.
Some of the chapters could have made interesting magazine articles but as a whole, it doesn't quite work. Don't let this put you off though. If you want to learn more about coffee it's worth slogging through this book and taking from it what you can.