Coffee is one of the most popular drinks around the world, and over time, a range of different coffee cultures have developed depending on how the drink was introduced, and how the culture that developed around it was adopted by different people. In Portugal coffee (in its espresso form) is more ingrained into society than it has been in the UK, and has a fascinating history. I was recently told about a new book in Portuguese that talked about the development of coffee, cafés and café cultures, and after a bit of exploring I was delighted to find that the book was actually written in both Portuguese and English. It’s more than a book about Portuguese coffee culture but instead ‘a history of coffee from seed to cup as well as the science behind it’ (Moura, 2015: 2).
Written by a Portuguese food writer, and more recently a judge on a Portuguese cooking show, Cook Off, Fátima Moura, the book explores the history of coffee more generally, where it is grown, where it is consumed, and how some of the different café cultures developed, and perhaps more importantly why they developed differently. She highlights that ‘cafes as public spaces for new ways of socialising came to Portugal later than in most European countries’, and that the appearance of these cafes across Portugal was linked to a new kind of socialising among city dwellers back in the late 18th century – it made it possible for people from all social classes to access public spaces.
The book includes a wealth of images which show the development of coffee houses and the coffee industry around the world, particularly in Portugal and its colonies, including Brazil. It’s also full of great images as quotes from various authors who have written about coffee and cafés throughout history:
‘Europe is its cafes. From those of Lisbon beloved by Fernand Pessoa to those of Odesa, frequented by the gangsters of Isaac Babel, to those of Copenhagen in front of which Kierkegaard passed by in his thoughtful wandering or those of Palermo […] Draw the coffee house map and you have one of the essential markers of the kitchen of Europe.’ George Steiner (The Idea of Europe, p.38)
From the history of coffee growing, trading and consuming the book also considers the growing appreciation of coffee, and the different types of coffee and equipment used to roast it and prepare it highlighting the important role of the barista.
You can find out more about the activities of the author, Fatima Moura on her blog, or Facebook page and the book is still available on the CTT website (although there is a limited number of these books available as only 3,700 were printed).