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Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World Paperback – September 28, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MARK PENDERGRAST is an independent scholar who brews a fantastic cup of coffee. He is the author of many books, including For God, Country and Coca-Cola, Mirror Mirror, Inside the Outbreaks, and other books. He lives in Colchester, Vermont."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Second Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046501836X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018369
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are a new coffee fanatic, and are in to roasting your own coffee and wanting to learn all you can about coffee, go ahead and purchase this book, Pendergrast does a pretty good job of covering the coffee world from harvest to cup, and it is in an easy to read format. But I must say, I felt it was basically a "Cliff Note" of the all encompassing "Coffee Bible" that William H. Uker wrote almost a hundred years ago. Ukers book is titled "All About Coffee", and is the acknowledged complete work of every aspect of the coffee world. You can sometimes find the out of print book on Ebay, but it is usually over $150 for a worn out copy! I found that you can go to "Project Gutenberg" on the web and read the entire book, with all the full color hand drawn pictures, absolutely free of charge! Do it! You won't regret it!
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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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. There are moments where the anecdotes become very detailed and tedious with a little repetitiveness. But, there are also many odd facts, like ones about old time brewing methods, I learned in this book that amounted to interesting conversation starters with others.
I have recommended this to friends and read an excerpt every so often to rediscover tidbits of coffee history.
If you want something that more addresses the 21st century this probably isn't the first book I would select.
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