All about Coffee

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All about Coffee

Books on coffee beans, the coffee trade, and the glories of the marvelous brew

Ah… coffee. A cuppa, Java, liquid lightning… It gets us on our feet in the morning, it’s our afternoon treat, or it’s our all-day fuel and provider of comfort. In the DMV, two-thirds of us drink at least one cup of coffee every day, and the area is home to some excellent coffee shops (and plenty of Starbucks locations too). But how much do you really know about coffee? How are the beans harvested and processed? What are the particulars of the global trade in coffee? What role has the coffeehouse played over time? What are the medical benefits (and hazards) of coffee? And are you making the best cup of coffee you can? Pick up one or more of the books below to expand your knowledge and appreciation of this glorious beverage.
 
The Complete Book of Coffee by Mary Banks et al.
The title says it all. This book touches on most every topic: the characteristics of the plant itself, the history of coffee consumption (quick fact: before beverages were prepared from coffee beans, the ripe fruit was chewed), the process of harvesting and processing, the various methods and machines used to brew coffee, and so forth. There are also dozens of recipes for coffee drinks (hot, cold, with and without alcohol) and coffee desserts.
 
The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing -- Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed by James Hoffmann
Everything coffee-related is here, including this eyebrow-raising tidbit of history: “The first coffee houses opened in Europe in the mid-1600s, and coffee soon replaced beer and wine as the breakfast drink of choice.” You’ll explore the coffee tree and its fruit, the ins and outs of processing, and all the equipment used to brew a cuppa, and then you’ll take a journey around the coffee-producing countries of the world. Perhaps the only thing you won’t learn from this colorful volume is how to use frothed milk to create a tree-like pattern in espresso.
 
Coffee: From Bean to Barista by Robert W. Thurston
If you want to take a deep dive into coffee chemistry and cultivation, with ample use of statistics and technical details, then this book is for you: it comprehensively covers the laborious process of planting, growing, harvesting and processing beans (you’ll be amazed by the many challenges that coffee farmers face) and how bean quality is assessed. It also includes much up-to-date information on consumption patterns (e.g., the Finns drink the most coffee of any national group, as measured by annual per capita consumption of kilos of beans), new developments in coffee plant hybridization, certification schemes, and the frightening potential impacts of climate change (“Unless climate change is halted or reversed, the area of the globe suitable for coffee cultivation may shrink 50 percent by the year 2050”).
 
Coffee: A Dark History by Antony Wild
This fascinating volume investigates coffee through the ages: its humble beginnings, its use in ritual ceremony, and its rise as an important global commodity. The book focuses on the period from the 16th century domestication of the coffee plant to the present; it details the adventurous merchants who searched far and wide for coffee-growing regions and scouted new territories for planting, the government-backed enterprises that established plantations and developed trade routes for coffee, and today’s labor relations and property ownership patterns associated with coffee. It is a dark tale indeed, one that includes slavery, imperialism, and spoiled coffee beans. Other recommended histories are A Rich and Tantalizing Brew: A History of How Coffee Connected the World (just published in 2019) and Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World (2010).

Coffee: Philosophy for Everyone -- Grounds for Debate Edited by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin
“Coffee and philosophy, partners since the beverage’s beginnings.” In Coffee: Philosophy for Everyone, the editors turn a philosopher’s eye upon multiple aspects of coffee. Through interviews and essays, they discuss, among other topics, the social role of the coffeehouse and the creation of community through coffee, the impact of the coffee trade on communities in developing countries, the aesthetic value of a good cup of coffee, and caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug. Enjoy with a cup of brew and share the ideas with friends for hours of stimulating talk.
  
The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard
Someone put the kettle on the hob – let’s not leave tea off of the table or out of the conversation: it’s the national beverage in China, India, the UK, and many other countries and it has a fascinating history. Besides, one cannot live by coffee alone, can one? The interest of all but the most inveterate of coffee drinkers will be piqued by The Tea Book. It covers the fascinating history of the tea trade, the many types of tea and methods of brewing, and tea culture and tea ceremonies around the world, and it includes recipes for herbal and fruit infusions and special tea drinks.