THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST
Wild, Anthony. Coffee: A Dark History. W. W. Norton & Company, London, New
York. 2005. 344 pp. ISBN-10 0393337391, Hardcover $26.00. Paper $21.95.
Luttinger, Nina, and Gregory Dicum. The Coffee Book. The New Press, London,
New York. 2006. 224 pp. ISBN-10 1595580603. Paper $16.95.
"The world drinks about 1.5 billion cups of coffee per day-the United States alone
drinks one-fifth of this" (Luttinger ix). Where does this coffee come from? What is its history? There are two different, recent books that talk about the history of coffee. The first,
Coffee: A Dark History is just that, a dark look. When the author set out to write this
book, he wanted to focus on the dark side of coffee. He wanted to point out all the unknown difficulties that have arisen from coffee production over the years. Some of these
difficulties (the dark side) include various people who have been negatively affected by
coffee: either through slavery or growers who have lost their only source of income due
to insufficient grower protection during price gouging. Readers should be aware that this
book is the author's undocumented ramblings. It does not contain any figures, graphs or
citations. In fact, the author purposely did not cite any information, and therefore, the information is not verifiable. For anyone who is interested in this book I would suggest
picking it up at your local library first in order to preview it before purchasing.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the second edition of The Coffee Book. The
authors decided that American society and its view of coffee had changed so much from
the first edition, published in 1999, that they needed to bring out a new edition. In this reviewer's opinion this book is a "must read" for the serious coffee drinker. Not only is the
book well written, it is also full of verifiable facts and figures, which make it not only an
interesting read, but also an easy read. The figures and facts help bring the story of coffee
to life. One of the interesting things the authors do is focus not only on the history of coffee, but also how it has shaped society over the years and today. For example, throughout
the book the authors discuss how coffee has moved from the elite drink of the past to
something that can be found in almost every household in the United States. The authors
also discuss how coffee houses were started and their effect on society over the years. Finally, the authors discuss how the quality of the coffee bean has declined over the years
and how coffee farmers from all over the world are being affected by this change. This
book is a good overview that is filled with enough detail so that the reader won't feel
bogged down with too many facts.
Tori Steely, Graduate Student
Department of Biology, Andrews University
Berrien Springs, MI 49104-0410