Coffee: A Dark History

Overview

“Masterful and exhaustive . . . eye-opening lessons in economics, ethics, culture and science, resulting in a comprehensive overview of a commodity that is second only to oil in its importance to world trade.” —Worcester Evening News
Coffee trader and historian Antony Wild delivers a rollicking history of the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world after oil—an industry that employs 100 million people throughout the world. From obscure beginnings in east Africa in the fifteenth century as a stimulant ...
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Coffee: A Dark History

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Overview

“Masterful and exhaustive . . . eye-opening lessons in economics, ethics, culture and science, resulting in a comprehensive overview of a commodity that is second only to oil in its importance to world trade.” —Worcester Evening News
Coffee trader and historian Antony Wild delivers a rollicking history of the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world after oil—an industry that employs 100 million people throughout the world. From obscure beginnings in east Africa in the fifteenth century as a stimulant in religious devotion, coffee became an imperial commodity, produced by poor tropical countries and consumed by rich temperate ones. Through the centuries, the influence of coffee on the rise of capitalism and its institutions has been enormous. Revolutions were once hatched in coffeehouses, commercial alliances were forged, secret societies were formed, and politics and art were endlessly debated. Today, while coffee chains spread like wildfire, coffee-producing countries are in crisis: with prices at a historic low, they are plagued by unprecedented unemployment, abandoned farms, enforced migration, and massive social disruption. Bridging the gap between coffee’s dismal colonial past and its perilous corporate present, Coffee reveals the shocking exploitation that has always lurked at the heart of the industry.
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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Antony Wild isn't kidding. The history of coffee is indeed as "dark," as his subtitle puts it, as the cup of Colombian that sits on my desk as these words are written. Himself a coffee lover and an expert on the subject -- he worked for more than a decade as the buyer for a prestigious British specialty-coffee company -- Wild is nonetheless no sentimentalist when it comes to the human and natural toll the bean has extracted -- "poverty, violence, exploitation, environmental devastation, political oppression, and corruption" -- nor to the threats that caffeine poses to the health of those who consume it. As he writes, with the wry touch that makes his book a pleasure:
— The Washington Post
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337396
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 705,804
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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