16 January 2013

Coffee Series

This coffee series excerpts heavily from Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, a Harvard graduate, investigative journalist, and independent scholar, also the author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, excerpted in the Coca-Cola Series. Coffee is a global industry that is rich in history and conflict, defining much of the recent history of Central America and Brazil. Coffee is so desired that it may have been, and could still become, a form of money. For coffee lovers, Uncommon Grounds is a fascinating read.

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

Coffee has assumed a social meaning that goes far beyond the simple black brew in the cup. The worldwide coffee culture is more than a culture – it is a cult. Starbucks outlets populate every street corner, vying for space with other coffeehouses and chains. A good cup of coffee can turn the worst day tolerable, provide an all-important moment of contemplation, and rekindle romance. And yet, poetic as its taste may be, coffee’s history is rife with controversy and politics. 

Beginning as a medicinal drink for the elite, coffee became the favored modern stimulant of the blue-collar worker during his break, the gossip started in middle-class kitchens, the romantic binder for wooing couples, and the sole, bitter companion of the lost soul. Coffeehouses have provided places to plan revolutions, write poetry, do business, and meet friends. The drink became such an intrinsic part of Western culture that it has seeped into an incredible number of popular songs [Find].

Coffee provides one fascinating thread, stitching together the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine, and business, and offering a way to follow the interactions that have formed a global economy.

Coffee. May you enjoy its convoluted history over many cups.

Coffee and Central America

Artist: Renee Bolmeijer