Feet up, couch bound with a good book in one hand and a hot cup of coffee in the other is a reader’s rite of passage. Those co-mingling aromas of parchment and fresh grounds are undeniably intoxicating. Any favorite book can be heightened by the pairing, but it being the Fortnight of Coffee and all, we decided to filter some new picks in a sort of meta-coffee vein: five first-rate reads to further your knowledge of one of the world’s most popular drinks. Contained within their pages are more than simple facts and figures, but stories of adventure and discovery, shifting cultural practices and insights on how coffee fits into the world. Much like our featured brews, these books are meant to be savored so no, there won’t be a test. Time to indulge your obsession, thoughtfully.
God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee
Guided by premium roasters/entrepreneurs, occasionally posing as economic idealists, God in a Cup follows Michaele Weissman as she visits various ends of the earth in search of perfection in percolated form. Healthy doses of history combined with cultural revelations from home and abroad expose what’s behind the curtain of growing coffee connoisseurship in America. Is a ten-dollar latte labored over by a barista tastier than that T-disc combo you have at home? Can a $40 pound of coffee be justified if the farmers behind the beans gain in equal measure? God only knows.
Coffee Life in Japan
It’s taken for granted in American culture that the coffeehouse has long been a hotbed for cultural change. Merry White turns her attentions to the land of the rising sun, tracing the cultural importance of the Japanese café from its inception in 1888 to current day. The result is an Eastern twist on our own obsession and culture with just the right amount of parallels — and cerebral discussion in ethnography. You may feel a strange bloating in your brain as you read: that’s knowledge.
All About Coffee
“Coffee is universal in its appeal. All nations do it homage. It has become recognized as a human necessity. It is no longer a luxury or an indulgence; it is a corollary of human energy and human efficiency. People love coffee because of its two-fold effect — the pleasurable sensation and the increased efficiency it produces.” Originally published in 1922, William H. Ukers’ 800 pages (or about nineteen triple espressos in reading time) sounded the depths of what everyone else has been saying since. Long considered the most complete coffee companion, it’s still a must read for bean aficionados and history buffs alike.
The Birth of Coffee
The Birth of Coffee is more than just a good read. While Linda Rice Lorenzetti’s prose provides excellent insight into coffee’s impact on farming communities found around the world, Daniel Lorenzetti’s accompanying coffee-toned images give visual power to the lives of workers whose livelihood is in your mug. Their work also spawned an exhibition of artifacts, text and of course those prints that began its run in 2002 and is still touring today.
Coffee Talk: The Stimulating Story of the World’s Most Popular Brew
Where Coffee Talk differs from our other choices is in Morton Satin’s broad approach. His cross-cultural examination of the social importance of coffee explores the evolution of the beverage’s role in developing nations as well as the world’s superpowers. The coffeehouse — and more importantly coffee itself — is seen as the precipitous element of discourse and change in various social and economic landscapes. Satin also sprinkles his work with interesting facts and some techniques for perfecting your own brew at home to keep your conversations going.