Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Few Cups of Coffee Might Get You Through

Uncommon Grounds: The History Of Coffee And How It Transformed Our World by Pendergrast

Summary: Uncommon Grounds tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in Abyssinia to its role in intrigue in the American colonies to its rise as a national consumer product in the twentieth century and its rediscovery with the advent of Starbucks at the end of the century. A panoramic epic, Uncommon Grounds uses coffee production, trade, and consumption as a window through which to view broad historical themes: the clash and blending of cultures, the rise of marketing and the assembly line mass production, and urbanization. Coffeehouses have provided places to plan revolutions, write poetry, do business, and meet friends. The coffee industry has dominated and molded the economy, politics, and social structure of entire countries.Mark Pendergrast introduces the reader to an eccentric cast of characters, all of them with a passion for the golden bean. Uncommon Grounds is nothing less than a coffee-flavored history of the world.

Review: As a relatively new coffee drinker and a fan of history in all varieties, I thought I would enjoy this book. But I didn't. 

Coffee is such an ingrained part of our lives. And nothing exists in a vacuum. Coffee has and still affects the world. Pendergrast presents a lot of information and history, but focuses a lot on the later half of the 1800s and the 1900s. He waits til the last chapter to describe some basic information about coffee, which should have been in the very beginning. The best thing I can say about Pendegrast is that he is very thorough. He must have done a lot of research. I enjoyed learning about how caffeine affects the body (it is a poison and the liver tries to break it down as fast as it can) and how sexism was used in a lot of coffee ads.

The worst thing I can say about Pendegrast is that he is very thorough. He presents a lot of information, perhaps too much information. I also feel he focuses on the later half of the 1800s and the 1900s too much. I was most interested in the early history, early 1800s and before. That could just be me though since I like early history (anything before the 1900s) and medical history. 


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to people who are really curious about the history of coffee and/or people very interested in 1800s/1900s food history. 

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