- Hardcover: 323 pages
- Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st American Ed edition (June 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393060713
- ISBN-13: 978-0393060713
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Coffee: A Dark History Hardcover – June 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
While coffee historian Wild brings enthusiasm to this tome on the 500-year history of the caffeinated bean, it doesn't match the simple passion with which coffee lovers enjoy their morning java. (In fairness to the author, how could it?) Wild (The East India Company) traces the bean as it makes its way from Africa to the Middle East (it was once known as the "wine of Araby") to the West, and the rise in cafe culture across Europe and eventually the New World, where, thanks to the Boston Tea Party, coffee surpassed tea as the patriotic drink of choice for a fledging nation. But Wild repeatedly reminds readers that for all the pleasure a cup of coffee brings to its drinker, the history of this beguiling brew is indeed dark. As long as there has been coffee, Wild asserts, there have been colonial powers—and now corporations—to exploit the workers that grow it. While this is a fascinating story that combines history with anthropology, too often the writing is buried under the heartless statistics of economic formulations. However, the work does provide caffeine junkies with intriguing reading material next time they find themselves waiting in line to order their grande vanilla latte. Illus. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Wild reveals that in the U.S. alone, some 1.5 million people are involved in the coffee industry either directly through coffee processing, sales, and distribution or indirectly through manufacture of paper cups and the like. Although coffee consumption is rising, the amount of money paid to coffee producers continues to fall, reducing many to poverty and destroying already fragile economies. Ironically, some of the trouble in coffee markets may be attributed to U.S. efforts to revive Vietnam's economy through the planting of lesser-quality coffee bushes. Wild further links coffee to ill health and to colonialism, and he holds in particular contempt the development of instant coffee. Tracing coffee's history and spread from sixteenth-century East Africa and Arabia, Wild perceptively connects it with Napoleon's career and with the poet Rimbaud. Wild depicts a particularly unflattering picture of competing efforts to endorse or to condemn caffeine's invigorating effect. His radical take on the rise of Starbucks makes McDonald's growth look innocuous. Wild may represent an extreme stance, but his effort raises many troubling questions. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Wild (The East India Company) has been widely recognized for introducing specialty coffees to Great Britain. Here, he presents a 500-year history of the much-loved drink, drawing on science, politics, anthropology, and alchemy before concluding that today's large companies, with their demand for lower prices, have put coffee farmers out of business and thousands of workers out of jobs in Africa and Central America. Wild's explanation of how major corporations have taken over the coffee industry, supported by public information direct from the coffee distributors themselves, will inspire readers to comtemplate their contribution to this global situation. The only comparison would be Stewart Lee Allen's The Devil's Cup, which describes similar facts but from the first person. With its political and historical perspectives, this book reads more like a textbook. Recommended for academic libraries; an optional purchase for others.-Jennifer A. Wickes, Suite101.com, Pine Beach, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
One gets the feeling that the author wants to believe that coffee use goes back to antiquity, even though he tells you he can't provide any evidence of that. More than once there is a vague reference to the Biblical "forbidden tree of knowledge" which could have been...coffee! In fact, any time a dark beverage is mentioned in any ancient writings it might have been...coffee! (Though a reading of the context usually indicates that it was not.)
The book presents material such as the discredited German study from the early 90's which claimed an analysis of the hair of 3000 year old Egyptian mummies contained cocaine and nicotine (but not caffeine). There is no scientific or historical support suggesting the ancient Egyptians had access to New World plants like coca or tobacco, but the total absence of caffeine fails (once again) to prove the ancient world drank coffee. There is no reason to even give it a one line mention in the book. Elsewhere there is mention of Islamic Arabs in the 5th century, although Mohamed wasn't born until the 6th century.
When so many of the author's "facts" are in error, it's hard to know when he may have gotten something right. (Even an blind pig finds the occasional truffle, right?) If you really want to know something about the history of coffee, consult at least two other books after reading this one.
To add insult to injury, it's not even a lively or entertaining read. Not recommended.
At the outset, it claims to be a 'dark' history and it certainly doesn't disappoint in that respect.
Though sounding a little extravagant in portraying coffee as the 'forbidden fruit' in the Garden of Eden of the Old Testament, each chapter touches on sensitive ethical issues which are moving ever higher on the priority list of European consumers.
Tracing the origins of the cultivation of coffee back to the Yemen and the early attempts to create plantations elsewhere by The East India Company, we are taken on a journey of unexpected complexity as coffee finds its way into the social and religeous infrastracture of every continent it touches.
By the end of the book, we've had a lot more for our money than simply history. Antony Wild makes us look anew at something we have grown up with and almost taken for granted. He gives us the tools we need to think again about coffee - to bring it out of the darkness.. and into the light.
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touching on biology, culture, slavery, exploitation, Napoleon, St.Read more