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Devil's Cup Hardcover – July 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569471746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569471746
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this appealingly offbeat "coffeecentric history of humanity," Allen brews up a highly personal tribute to everyone's favorite legal recreational drug. Made of equal parts inspired travel writing and savvy cultural criticism, the book describes Allen's pilgrimages to coffee's major sites of interest. From the drink's origins in Harrar, Ethiopia, to its arguable demise at a place called Adrien's Coffeeshop somewhere along Route 66, Allen's espresso-powered peregrinations offer a lively study of coffee's role in world history. By turns worshiped and scorned for its psychoactive effects, the beverage has spawned legends almost as fabulous and seductive as the drink itself. It inspired the Islamic Whirling Dervishes, who slurped the stuff as a prelude to their bouts of religious ecstasy, and is thought to have precipitated the French Revolution, when citizens stormed the Bastille in part to liberate a coffee-deprived Marquis de Sade. To his credit, Allen, who claims he can tell in a sip that the coffee in a particular Ethiopian town is adulterated with smuggled Zairian Robusta beans, wisely avoids the overworked topic of Starbucks and its bid for a global latte empire. Mark Prendergast's social history, Uncommon Grounds (Forecasts, May 17), is more of an omnibus survey of the bean, but Allen's quirky insights more than make up for any scholarly shortcomings. Call it gonzo gastronomy: the work strikes just the right balance between the frenetic praise of a bug-eyed caffeine freak and the informed observations of a true connoisseur. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Chef-turned-journalist Allens debut book is a thoroughly entertaining, absorbing, and often hilarious jaunt through the history and geography of coffee. Allen retraces the spread of coffee, searching the globe for its historical and cultural significance. He begins in Harrar, Ethiopia, where coffee is profoundly embedded in tribal religious practices and local legends. Allen's method of research is delightfully seat-of-the- pants. When he hears of a religious ceremony in Harrar in which serving coffee is a sacred ritual, he bribes his way inside. Next he follows the dissemination of coffee north to Yemen, putting himself on board a merchant ship carrying liquor, AK-47 rifles, and an unforgettable cast of characters. Allen is the perfect traveler: curious, persistent, resourceful, fun-loving, with a nose for adventure, and a deep understanding of human motivation. One of the book's highlights takes place in a coffeehouse in Calcutta, where Allen befriends a glassy-eyed hash addict named Yangi. The two men hatch a plot to export forged artwork to France. Needless to say, the whole thing becomes an international comedy of errors. Allen is an elegant prose stylist, providing countless insights about people and his beloved brew: ``Turkish coffee is like a clenched fist in a cup, tight, bitter, and black. The Yemen version, which comes glowing golden in a large glass tumbler, is a lighter, whimsical brew, deliciously sweet.'' In Vienna, Allen discovers how the invading Ottoman Turks brought coffee to Europe, transforming the whole continent. The author describes precaffeinated Europe as deadly dull, ``a lot like Nebraska on a slow weekendchurch or beer.'' Coffee was a harbinger for European political reform, especially in England and France. He summarizes a number of quirky yet strangely convincing theories about how coffee triggered revolution, colonialism, slavery, and economic inequality. Allen enjoys his cup to the last drop, and there's nothing decaffeinated about his wonderfully tasty brew. A must for both Java junkies and travel lovers. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Grab a good cup of joe, get this book, and start reading already!
Michael Jandrok
So, If you like, coffee, travel, history, and or interesting stories, this is the book for you.
happy reader in NYC
I thought it was funny, well written and a good, easy yet informative read.
Kat Morgenstern

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Jo Mengeling on November 15, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The Devil's Cup, Stewart Lee Allen decides to travel the world in search of the history of coffee. He travels on a budget that leads to many interesting scenarios, such as crossing the Atlantic on a cargo ship with a handful of other passengers, that have little to nothing to do with coffee. Much of his info on the history of coffee in Europe is a recitation (although amusingly told) of more staid histories of coffee. He spends most of his travels looking for either the best or worst cup of coffee. After I finished the book, I felt like I had read several good anecdotal stories and legends about the origins and history of coffee, and had also read a rather crazy, but interesting, travelogue that loosely related to the spread of coffee from Africa to the rest of the world. It was a fun read and worth reading, but I am still looking for a more focused and complete history of coffee.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By happy reader in NYC on October 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a must read for people from all walks of life. It would take me a lot more than 1,000 words to illustrate the wit, wisdom, and historical relevance indicated within these pages. So, If you like, coffee, travel, history, and or interesting stories, this is the book for you. I do not even drink coffee and I found in a cafe ordering a cappucino this morning! I have a lot of new and interesting infomation to make small talk at the many boring functions that I go to all week. Not many books can top that! Enjoy!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Brian W. Roth on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a gift and was hoping for a more informative book about coffee, its history, and its intricacies. Instead, I found a collection of miscellaneous chapters that were, at best, loosely connected. The anecdotes provoked laughter, but I don't think I would call it hilarious. "The Devil's Cup" is a light read and worthwhile so long as you don't open the book hoping for an academic read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Heiser on October 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a quick and enjoyable book. Although I actually did learn quite a bit about an interesting subject, the book is as much of a travel story as it is the history of a foodstuff that has only become ubiquitous during the last several centuries.
I suspect that the search for the roots of coffee is just an excuse for a jaunt around the world, from the rain forests of Africa, to the bleakest coast of the Arabian peninsula, to an art scam in India, across the Atlantic in a tramp steamer and finally a road trip across America. Well, actually, that's a bit of a simplification--I missed a couple of continents.
It is an entertaining book. The author has a wry sense of humor and is an astute observer of human diversity. He's also something of a free spirit, and I have to wonder if his being stopped by Southern Patrolmen looking for drugs came as more of a surprise to him than to the reader.
The book really does operate at two levels, providing an interesting and informative story about the history of coffee, viewing it through contemporary eyes in the many locations where coffee made its way through history, eventually culminating in Starbucks.
Looking for the perfect cuppa joe? Sounds like a good story. Yeah. We can have some fun with that. Ask the barista for another latte grande and enjoy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Bowden on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I came across this book by accident and bought it out of my sheer love for coffee. But the book not only has the great tale of how coffee came from Africa and made it's way all over the earth to the daily drink we know today, it also is a first rate travelogue. The author follows coffee's migration from Africa to Europe. Mr. Allen has quite a knack for finding and reporting his adventures and misadventures with a fun easy to read style.

If you like non-fiction travelogues, then do yourself a favor and buy this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Carlin on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book by Mr. Allen. It is basically a personal narrative on his travels so it can also be considered a travel essay. As he experiences various regions, he stops and samples various brews. The "History of the World" portion of the title comes from amusing anecdotes throughout the book relating to coffee. I enjoyed learning about some of the regions where coffee was outlawed at a time and the reasoning or lack of behind it. I am only giving it four stars because I wanted more as was related to the title and less narrative. Some chapters are amusing, but there are portions of the book I just skipped over, but all in all a nice effort and I would recommend it. This book appeared to have been written very quickly with quick tidbits of humour. I am convinced Mr Allen was intoxicated with double shot's of espresso while writing this text. After I finished, I brewed up some coffee of my own!

- David Carlin
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Naugle, President on November 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a good writer, but I am a good reader. Stewart Lee Allen is a good writer. Stewart takes you with him on his personal adventure for the perfect cup. He goes to the scene of the crime, where it all started, Eastern Africa and he follows his nose. It doesn't always lead him to the safest places but they are indeed exciting. Along the way Stewart presents the reader with coffee folklore that is very old but fresh to the untraveled ear. You will get a taste of every thing from the coffee balls of the Oromo tribe to the Garri ceremonial coffee made with butter and milk. You'll learn more things about coffee than you'll ever want to know. Stewart makes astute analogies between ancient ceremonial coffee drinking habits with today's practice of drinking coffee with business meetings. His numerous and humorous observations about coffee are refreshing. He brings new life to the old and tired subject of coffee. Thanks to Stewart we all know it is smugglers like Baba Budan we have to thank for our mild addictions. You'll have to read the book to find out why. You won't be sorry and you'll walk away loaded with a new coffee vocabulary.
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