The second edition of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage and the Industry is a welcome addition to my ever-growing coffee related library. Edited by Robert Thurston, Jonathan Morris and Shawn Steiman, two history professors and the owner of Coffea Consulting, this volume also includes chapters from a wealth of different individuals involved in the coffee industry, from coffee farmers to coffee company owners. 63 chapters are divided into five parts: the coffee business, the state of the trade (which includes both producer and consumer country profiles), the history of coffee and its social life, the qualities of coffee (including coffee and the health), and the future of coffee. Each section has a selection of short chapters on related topics. It would be impossible in a review like this to cover the breadth and detail that is covered in this volume, however I will highlight a few of my favourite parts.
I found the consumer country profiles particularly interesting reading not only about the history of coffee consumption in different national markets, but how different coffee cultures developed – from the interest in sustainable coffee in Denmark, to how coffee faired in nations that are traditionally associated with tea (such as Russia or China). There is a rich history of coffee and the different elements of the coffee industry embedded throughout this book, but Chapter 41: Coffee, a Condensed History does a great job of providing a quick overview of how coffee became the global beverage it is today. As the authors highlight at the beginning of the chapter, ‘studying the history of coffee is a lot like barista training; the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. Coffee involves so many fields and subdisciplines- – agricultural, business, consumption, cultural, diplomatic, development, economic, environmental, food, gender, political, religious, rural, social, technology, trade’ – and in part this is what makes it such an interesting area to learn about. This book in general has highlighted areas of the industry I need to learn more about, and with each chapter well referenced, it means I have lot of further avenues for reading. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 42 Coffee House Formats throughout the centuries: Third places or public spaces as it is well aligned with some of my research areas, but also Chapter 45 The Espresso Menu: An International history for its overview of the development of the different drinks we encounter in the modern coffee shop. The book also has a very useful glossary at the back, which is excellent as a reference guide in itself. In a recent lecture I delivered on the global coffee industry, I recommended the ‘Coffee Business’ section to my students as a good overview of the different elements of the system from the plant itself, to how its traded and key threats to the industry.
In general anyone with an interest in coffee and the coffee industry is likely to find something of value in this book. Because of how it is organised, you could just read the select chapters deemed relevant, but actually read cover to cover as I ended up doing, it provided a fantastic series of vignettes across the industry, demonstrating its diversity but also interconnections between places, processes and the different parts of the industry.