Uncommon Grounds : The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 June 1999
Pendergrast's sprightly, yet thoroughly scholarly, history of America's favorite hot beverage packs the pleasurable punch of a double espresso. From the drink's origins in sixth-century Ethiopia through the Arab introduction of coffee to Europe in the sixteenth century, the brown infusion has generated passion and intrigue. Tropical New World nations became economically (and politically) tied to a volatile market manipulated by financiers far from their shores. Pendergrast vividly sketches an amazing cast of characters created by the coffee trade, notably Hermann Sielcken, a coffee monopolist, and C. W. Post, who founded an empire promoting a coffee substitute. Pendergrast also limns the mutual growth of America's grocery chains and the nation's advertising industry, which created some of the earliest demand for brand-name products. As baby boomers matured, postwar expansion of specialty coffee roasters burgeoned in the eighties and yielded the mighty Starbuck's empire and those ubiquitous green and white paper cups that rival McDonald's arches as contemporary cultural icons. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
LJ Reviews 1999 July #1
In this enlightening sociocultural chronicle, journalist Pendergrast (For God, Country & Coca-Cola) focuses on the popularity of coffee, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Coffee-drinking came late to the New World but was embraced almost immediately. It accompanied settlers on their way west (Native Americans referred to it as "black medicine") and was popular with soldiers in the Civil War and both world wars. Pendergrast's book is filled with stories about the rise (and fall) of coffee dynasties like Hills Brothers and Folgers and of how the fledgling advertising industry helped promote each. The book concludes with the advent of specialty firms like Starbucks. While it lacks the extensive industry overview that characterizes Gregory Dicum and Nina Luttinger's The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop (LJ 4/1/99), it provides substantial background on coffee production as well as making an entertaining yet serious attempt to understand the popularity of the beverage. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.ARichard S. Drezen, Washington Post News Research Ctr., Washington, DC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
PW Reviews 1999 May #3
Caffeinated beverage enthusiast Pendergrast (For God, Country and Coca-Cola) approaches this history of the green bean with the zeal of an addict. His wide-ranging narrative takes readers from the legends about coffee's discovery the most appealing of which, Pendergast writes, concerns an Ethiopian goatherd who wonders why his goats are dancing on their hind legs and butting one another to the corporatization of the specialty cafe. Pendergrast focuses on the influence of the American coffee trade on the world's economies and cultures, further zeroing in on the political and economic history of Latin America. Coffee advertising, he shows, played a major role in expanding the American market. In 1952, a campaign by the Pan American Coffee Bureau helped institutionalize the coffee break in America. And the invention of the still ubiquitous Juan Valdez in a 1960 ad campaign caused name recognition for Colombian coffee to skyrocket within months of its introduction. The Valdez character romanticizes a very real phenomenon the painstaking process of tending and harvesting a coffee crop. Yet the price of a tall latte in America, Pendergrast notes, is a day's wage for many of the people who harvest it on South American hillsides. Pendergrast does not shy away from exploring such issues in his cogent histories of Starbucks and other firms. Throughout the book, asides like the coffee jones of health-food tycoon C.W. Post who raged against the evils of coffee and developed Postum as a substitute for regular brew provide welcome diversions. Pendergrast's broad vision, meticulous research and colloquial delivery combine aromatically, and he even throws in advice on how to brew the perfect cup. 76 duotones. Author tour. (June) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews