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on October 11, 2017
As a coffee lover, I had bought “Uncommon Grounds” several years ago because I was genuinely interested in the history of coffee and its impact on world history. I was totally misled by the book’s title.
As one other reviewer on Amazon had noted, it is clear that the author and/or publisher had deliberately packaged it as a world history of coffee in order to make it sell. A better---and more honest---subtitle for this book should have been “The Economics of Coffee and How it Transformed the Americas.” In reality, it is less a book on history than a very biased, polemical work NOT on the HISTORY of coffee, per se, but the ECONOMICS of coffee and how they transformed not the world, as much as how it transformed the AMERICAS. If one reads the book, you will notice that there is very little attention paid to the origins of coffee, how it had impacted Africa, Europe, Asia (including the Middle East), or the Pacific (except for Hawaii). The vast majority of the book seems to focus on the business of coffee and the competition between coffee companies and how they tried to one-up one another in selling their particular brand of coffee, and all of those companies are based in either North, South or Central America. I also was extremely irritated by how the author, a journalist named Mark Pendergrast, tried to pass off his personal tastes and opinions regarding coffee as objective fact. He constantly dismissed Robusta coffee---and probably other forms of coffee and/or other brands---as being objectively “bitter,” or “bad” coffee, while pointing to others as being “good” coffee, as if there is some sort of objective standard that everyone---including those who are known in the coffee business as “cuppers” (i.e. people in coffee factories who taste coffee at different stages of the manufacturing process)---all supposedly agreed on what types of coffee was “good” or “bad.” That is ridiculous. Imagine someone writing a cookbook and listing certain recipes as “good” or “bad” based solely on the fact that he or she did not like certain ingredients in the food. I wish Mr. Pendergrast’s editor had encouraged him to leave his own personal opinions out of the book, and I wish that he had been encouraged to add more chapters on the role coffee played in the history of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific. As a couple of other reviewers have pointed out, it appears that Mr. Pendergrast seems to define "the world" as the Americas---either out of a shocking ignorance of the fact that coffee is grown all around the world---including Ethiopia, where it was first discovered and Yemen, where it was first grown commercially and where it was first drunk as a drink in the Middle Ages. In fact, as a historian and a scholar of Islamic World Studies, it is worth noting---and this is something that the author does NOT mention this book, especially given the fact that this author focuses so much on coffee production in the Americas---that coffee was first introduced to the Americas by the Ottoman Turks in the 1600's and 1700's. I know this from my own study of the history of Islam and the Middle East. Given this book's narrow focus and its lack of objectivity, IF you choose to buy this book---particularly if you buy it in Kindle format as I had---I also HIGHLY recommend that you also download the book “All About Coffee” by William H. Ukers onto your E-reader as a supplemental source since, despite the fact that Mr. Ukers’ book was published in 1922, it nonetheless has THREE advantages over “Uncommon Grounds: 1) “All About Coffee” is much more comprehensive and really does focus on the ENTIRE WORLD, NOT just the Americas 2) Ukers' book focuses on ALL aspects of coffee---NOT just the coffee industry 3) Mr. Ukers’ book is much more objective and less polemical. I would also recommend that people buy the History Channel documentary, "Modern Marvels: Coffee."
To sum up, if you are interested in economics, or if you are somehow involved in the economic aspects of coffee, if you are interested in the history and/or politics of North, South or Central America and/or if you agree with the author's opinions about coffee, then this is your book. But if you are interested in a book on the HISTORY of coffee, and one which is OBJECTIVE and free of bias or spin, then please skip this book. If you want a book that will give you the objective facts about the HISTORY of coffee, then skip this one, and download "All About Coffee" by William H. Ukers onto your eReader instead.
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on January 28, 2015
Wow! This book really delves into behind the scene dealings of coffee companies extending into the darker aspects of government interventions in the exploitation of foreign nations' resources. Loaded with fun facts and pertinent information. I bought it for my dad for Christmas. He's a coffee lunatic and collects Chase & Sanborn vintage coffee tins.
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on January 16, 2010
The 4 star rating is the average between the 2 editions. The 1st rates a 5*, the
2nd only a 3. I have left the review on the 1st edition & have added comments @ the
bottom of the review.

1st EDITION

This is an excellent history, but needs a 2nd edition. A lot has happened in the
last 10 years. For instance in 2009, coffee made news as Starbucks had to close some
of its shops because of the recession. Also it's now easier to find organic & Fair
Trade coffee. Vietnam is now one of the top producers of Robusta beans. I wish he
would have dealt a little more with coffee ads which were a major part of coffee's
history during the 20th century. I didn't start drinking coffee until recently, but
I never forgot the Maxwell House percolator tune, Mrs. Olsen, Juan Valdez, or the
"IF I DON'T GET AMERICAN ACE COFFEE, I'M GOING BACK TO BED" commercials. Juan
Valdez' influence is still felt today. Go to any grocery store & you will see 100%
COLOMBIAN coffee. By the way, the man in the A.Ace. firing squad commercial in
Mexico was one of Elvis Presley's back up singers. Since I was once addicted to TV,
I remember the commercials very well. Be warned, the book is depressing @ times
(when you read abt the coffee farmers or the civil wars & bloodbaths in the coffee
producing nations), but to anyone who is interested in a detailed discussion of
coffee history, this is the book to read. I hope that the author will update it.

2nd EDITION

I was looking forward to this one, but can only give it mixed reviews. The preface
is OK & the revised chapter FINAL GROUNDS where he updated the history is excellent.
The reason I gave the 2nd ed. only 3 stars is that he chopped out quite a bit of the
material from the 1st ed. to make the book shorter. He even edited out the Kona
scandal. I would have preferred that he had just left the book intact (changing only
what was found to be incorrect), then adding the new prefix & the update-chapter at
the end. As it is the reader that who has only the 2nd ed. loses a lot of material
from the 1st. So if one has the 1st ed, don't throw it away. I will leave it to the
reader as to if 2 new chapters are worth the price of the book.
8 helpful votes
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on November 16, 2012
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.
8 helpful votes
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on December 31, 2013
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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on July 19, 2017
The best book on coffee
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on January 21, 2017
Successor to World Atlas of Coffee deals comprehensively with the discovery and development of coffee world wide. Great read.
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on May 5, 2014
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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on December 25, 2013
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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on February 9, 2014
This is an excellent book. A complete history of coffee with wonderful antidotes. The seller said the book was "used." But the condition was so good, I thought the book was new. Efficient, prompt delivery. Very happy. Book for extra credit in a class at UW. I highly recommend the seller, and for coffee lovers, I highly recommend this book!
1 helpful vote
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