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Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World [Kindle Edition]

Mark Pendergrast
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $21.99 What's this?
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"Business Adventures" by John Brooks
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Book Description

Uncommon Grounds tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in ancient Abyssinia to the advent of Starbucks. In this updated edition of the classic work, Mark Pendergrast reviews the dramatic changes in coffee culture over the past decade, from the disastrous “Coffee Crisis” that caused global prices to plummet to the rise of the Fair Trade movement and the “third-wave” of quality-obsessed coffee connoisseurs. As the scope of coffee culture continues to expand, Uncommon Grounds remains more than ever a brilliantly entertaining guide to the currents of one of the world’s favorite beverages.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mark Pendergrast, a former business journalist, is the author of several books, including For God, Country, and Coca-Cola. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3747 KB
  • Print Length: 474 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 046501836X
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Second Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0044DEFTQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,780 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not trust the book's title August 30, 2012
By Jackal
Format:Paperback
I was looking for a book giving me an overview of the history of coffee. The subtitle "how it transformed our world" was promising so I got hold of the book. Big mistake. First, the book only deals with the US market. So much for world transformation. Second, the focus is on the first decades of the 20th century. So much for a general history. Third, there is hardly anything about the period 1990-2012. So much for a revised edition published in 2010.

Had the content of the book been properly marketed, it would probably deserve three stars. Due the the totally faulty marketing of the book it does not deserve more than one star.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read November 16, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Im really enjoying the historical approach of Uncommon Grounds, which is less recounting the developments around coffee as it is a good discussion of how coffee influenced the growth of social and political institutions around the world. As a popular lit book it obviously doesnt get as critical as a scholarly publication might, but it is definitely a fun read.

My only complaint is that it breezes through the origins and domestication of coffee, but to be fair there very little data out there on that topic. Of all the "history of [esoteric item]" books out there right now, this is definitely one of the better and more interesting ones.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars started off strong September 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I heard the author on a radio interview and immediately ordered the book. I found the first parts of this work to be intriguing and captivating. The, like crossing a border, things changed. The writing devolved into the equivalent of going through a stack of notecards upon which facts were written in preparation for a term paper. The information in this book is extensive and I learned many things (the good news) but the last half of the book was a meandering bunch of facts and very tedious reading (the bad news). I feel like the author should take the information in the last half of the book and re-write it in the style of the first half. Then, this would be a winner!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it! December 31, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a Barista at Starbucks, I'm training to become a coffee master. This book was mentioned in my training and has been an insightful and successful tool amidst my studies. The book arrived in fantastic shape and in great time. Thank you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, have a coffee... December 25, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was wandering in Ethiopia when the curiosity about coffee was borned. I am a Brazilian but never looked deep into the story and history of coffee. This book is a piece of beauty as gives a tremendous parallel in between thes tory and the history of the world since coffee invention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Though this non-fiction account is about coffee, it does give the reader insight to not just the coffee business, but other budding food and beverage industries in the 19th and 20th century. The type of business model and marketing strategies were similar to just about every food and beverage industry of their respective times.

A key reason I enjoyed this book is the exhaustive research obviously put into it. Pendergrast not only includes historical accounts but also interesting anecdotes and memos from prominent coffee businesses. I found the late 1800s and early 1900s the most interesting of all.

I know others have said this book is bland and monotonous, but I beg to differ. Being a historical account, there is quite a bit of actual historical fact written in. History itself can be a bit mundane (this happened at this time at this place), but the author inserts little witty remarks and snippets from history that are quite entertaining. Very rarely does he pepper the account with his own quips, but when he does they are welcome and amusing.

Though the reader may not find much of the early history interesting due to the non-existence of many of the older brands (Arbuckle anyone?), I actually found that learning about these early coffee industry pioneers was inspiring. I also enjoyed that there were decent folks in the industry (Joel Cheek of Maxwell House and John Arbuckle come to mind) and villains (CW Post and Hermann Sielcken). The evolution of coffee from luxury good to everyday staple is interesting and it is also quite intriguing that the United States had a very large role in shaping the future of the coffee industry (since most - though not all - of the rest of the world was drinking tea).
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Overall, a mostly entertaining look at that psychotropic drug of choice, and its preferred delivery system, blessed by popes, drunk by billions. Three points stand out.

First, the author certainly has a hate on for robusta beans ("even at their best...flat...bitter"), which appears to be both a cause and effect of his highly Americas-centric take on coffee. It bears pointing out that the French, famed to have the most refined palettes on Earth, are robusta habitués. It's ethnocentric, and cultural imperialism, to dismiss one-half of the world's coffees as "flat" and "bitter." Viva robusta.

Second, the book makes palpably false statements, things that are so elemental that they throw every single fact, date and statistic in the book into doubt. E.g., Brazil begins just *north* of the equator, not south (p. 22); October 1914 was not "just before the outbreak of World War I" (p. 89). If you're going to err in facts that are common knowledge, what does that say about the more esoteric ones?

Third, the author spends an inordinate amount of time editorializing on social causes / social justice matters, some of which have only a tenuous connection to the subject matter. Death squads, bigotry, war, exploitation, torture, global warming all make their appearances in the book. Sometimes it reads more like Revelations than a book on coffee.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting topic but written in rather dry style. Very detailed.
Published 13 days ago by Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing story
I found this book so interesting. So much of the coffee we drink is from one plant. The history of this magical bean is amazing.
Published 1 month ago by Jeremy
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives a thorough overview of coffee history
I enjoyed this read. My career is in the coffee industry and enjoyed this read as it walked through the various eras of coffee markets. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Austin Niblett
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and mostly interesting throughout
A well-written and informative book overall. Though I must echo the comments of other readers that state that it focuses more on the Americas. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars All Good!
Arrived in great shape and looked like new. I love the story of Coffee and plan to buy a farm in 2014!
Published 6 months ago by Jim Laidlaw
4.0 out of 5 stars gift for a friend
got it here the very next day and i was totally happy. now my xmas list is done and i don't have to wonder what to get him.
Published 6 months ago by Jamie
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too much coffee
It could be a good story, but this book needed an editor. It reads like a term paper which included every bit of data the student could find. Read more
Published 7 months ago by SL
4.0 out of 5 stars The story behind the morning brew - a good historical eye opener
I have enjoyed coffee ever since beginning my employed life. It's social and feels necessary to have a concentration edge for the job. Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. Hubbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This is a very through history of coffee and well written so that it keeps you interested even though it is very in depth. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M. R. Hein
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffee Geeks Bible
This book is the most authoritative and comprehensive read on coffee that I've come across. Absolutely a must read for coffee geeks and enthusiasts alike.
Published 11 months ago by wayne mercado
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Topic From this Discussion
What's the coffee (kind, brand, price) that keeps you awake the most?
Generally, lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts. I am fairly certain that cafe arabica beans have more caffeine than cafe robusta (arabica certainly tastes better). I suppose the preparation method will also affect this- a cup of Turkish coffee will certainly have more bite than a... Read More
Sep 16, 2008 by Cheesenerd |  See all 3 posts
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