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God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee Hardcover – May 5, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From Ethiopia to Panama to Portland, journalist Weissman shadows today's vanguard coffee guys in their pursuit of the perfect, caffeinated beverage. With increased demand for specialty roasts superior to the mass-marketed offerings at Starbucks, Weissman illustrates how the origin, flavor compounds and socioeconomic impact of a cup of coffee are relevant now more than ever. Alongside industry leaders from some of the U.S.'s top roasters—Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown—Weismann treks to the birthplace of coffee, remote plantations, and international competitions where the best coffees in the world are cupped (or tasted), scored and where winners like Panamanian grower Hacienda La Esmeralda's revered Geisha coffee earn $130 per pound. Visiting both ends of the producer-consumer spectrum, she sheds light on the partnership between those who sell premium coffee and the impoverished who farm it—examining how specialty standards enable improved production, exceptional beans, fair prices and fatter pockets across the board. On the imbibing end, Weissman penetrates today's amped-up coffee culture: its sleek coffee bars, tattooed coffee-geeks behind the counters, fiercely competitive roasters working alongside champion baristas. Tagging along behind the main characters in today's specialty coffee scene, Weissman travels from the exotic to the expected to artfully deconstruct the connoisseur's cup of coffee. (May)
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Review

From Ethiopia to Panama to Portland, journalist Weissman shadows today’s vanguard "coffee guys" in their pursuit of the perfect, caffeinated beverage. With increased demand for specialty roasts superior to the mass-marketed offerings at Starbucks, Weissman illustrates how the origin, flavor compounds and socioeconomic impact of a cup of coffee are relevant now more than ever. Alongside industry leaders from some of the U.S.’s top roasters—Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown—Weismann treks to the birthplace of coffee, remote plantations, and international competitions where the best coffees in the world are cupped (or tasted), scored and where winners like Panamanian grower Hacienda La Esmeralda’s revered "Geisha" coffee earn $130 per pound. Visiting both ends of the producer-consumer spectrum, she sheds light on the partnership between those who sell premium coffee and the impoverished who farm it—examining how specialty standards enable improved production, exceptional beans, fair prices and fatter pockets across the board. On the imbibing end, Weissman penetrates today’s amped-up coffee culture: its sleek coffee bars, tattooed coffee-geeks behind the counters, fiercely competitive roasters working alongside champion baristas. Tagging along behind the main characters in today’s specialty coffee scene, Weissman travels from the exotic to the expected to artfully deconstruct the connoisseur’s cup of coffee. (May) (Publishers Weekly, March 31, 2008)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470173580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470173589
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are two reasons to read God in a Cup, food journalist Michaele Weissman's true life account of the colorful young guys who are making gourmet coffee one of the sexiest culinary products you can buy. First Weissman is a terrific writer. Her book is funny and fast paced. She rolls out the story of her travels in coffee producing nations and here in the United States as if she were writing a novel. Read her description (with full sound effects) of a coffee cupping at the Cup of Excellence competition in Nicaragua, see how she brings to life a confrontation between eager coffee buyers and impoverished coffee farmers in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, and experience her rendition of dueling baristas as a barista competition, you'll begin to understand what all the fuss about specialty coffee is about.

And that brings me to the second reason to read this book. God in a Cup provides a great journalistic thumbnail of the global marketplace. Weissman dramatizes issues like sustainability, profitability (as in who earns the profits from agricultural products) and Fair Trade, without ever getting bogged down in the tiresome politics. Beginning at the farm and ending in a swish café where coffee is brewed in an $11,000 gizmo called a Clover, Weissman sheds light on some of the most complicated economic issues of our day, while never ceasing to be amusing. She does this by writing a story about the global marketplace that is first and foremost a story about real people whose eccentricities, foibles, weaknesses and strengths she brings alive.
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Format: Hardcover
Most coffee lovers are satisfied to surf the web to learn about coffee. Michele Weissman actually got out and traveled to some off the beaten track places to learn about coffee from the source, the people who actually grow the stuff, as well as the people who process it and sell it in upscale coffee bars.

The book is well written and paced, though the proof readers seemed to have missed a few inconsistencies of spelling and first/last name order. Still, it offers a fascinating view, written by an experienced journalist, into a world of people obsessed with the search for the perfect cup of joe. It is certainly enriching my foray into learning more about specialty coffee.
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Format: Hardcover
Honestly- I just read a 250 page book about a beverage that I don't drink in, oh, about 72 hours. I literally couldn't put it down. Congratulations, Ms. Weissman, you have truly created a captivating narrative about a subculture I could never be a part of and made it this breathtaking world of whirlwind travel, chutzpah, occasional danger, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic and caring, while preserving the genuine realities of the farmers, a tightrope I would have agonized over had I been you. "Business to me is about bringing people out of poverty", a quote from the book and summary of what this book is about to me: More than just coffee. The care and lengths that people like Duane and Geoff go to to insure fair prices, good quality, and abstracts such as health care, non-lecherous pre-financing, and willingness to either challenge the co-ops or empower the farmers to make up their own minds, while not entirely altruistic, is incredible. There were many laughs in there ("I hate those guys, coffee Nazis!"), and I'd like to retire to Panama...tomorrow. It is a stunning book that I have already recommended to many, with many more to come.
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Format: Hardcover
Weissman clearly traveled a lot to write this book, because she never stops reminding the reader of it. I wish the book had focused more on coffee instead. Page after page will focus on the drama of a coffee tasting, but I would be left with little sense of understanding of coffee flavors and other aspects of what distinguished one coffee from another. Many times, I felt like I was reading a string of magazine profiles of coffee tasters and buyers.

There are some interesting coffee insights and the book is worth reading for those. However, I longed for more about coffee and less about those who buy it and sell it and where the author stayed when she was interviewing them.
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Format: Hardcover
Michaele Weissman's God in a Cup is perhaps the best book on the market that explains what is happening in the specialty coffee industry to date and how it has revolutionized the entire coffee business. A relatively small group of "coffee guys" direct source beans from all over the world in an attempt to find and buy only the best of the best coffee and bring it to the consumer. In doing so, they help coffee farmers improve their methods of coffee farming and pay them better prices too. All in all it's a win-win situation. Best read for learning about all aspects of coffee.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh if only a book like this could replace coffee table books!

The author of God in a Cup does a superb job relating the growth of the specialty coffee world to the reader in a work that holds an accessability few other books devoted to the topic can claim. We join her right as she begins to elevate her palate, affording a non-indoctrinated reader the opportunity to investigate and grow while reading along. Of course, few have the opportunity to tag along with a couple of the industry's buyers as they head off to origin, but I feel that is where this work shines. Weissman does a superb job relating the humor, confusion, joy, and frustration of making dealings with growers and middlemen and jumping into the fray at conventions held by and for the professionals so deeply steeped in their world that it can be simultaneously exhillarating, alienating, and exhausting to try and join in.

This book is a case where the entire title must be given its due. This is a work that conveys the obsession of coffee geekdom in such a way that those involved really must admit that it is indeed obsession. But it is infectious, joyous obsession and here is is written well enough to spread that enthusiastic sense of discovery to the reader. I could not help but pull a shot of espresso on my day off at the cafe I work at after reading one chapter and the descriptions of some coffees really do demand accompaniment with a cup of Panamanian coffee. I am personally not a fan of the Clover coffee brewing system (vacpot and presses for life), but still felt excitement reading about their use to highlight flavors.

You should know that this is a book about the quest for great coffee, not a book about great coffee.
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