cover image Coffee: From Bean to Barista

Coffee: From Bean to Barista

Robert W. Thurston. Rowman & Littlefield, $29.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5381-0808-6

Thurston, professor emeritus of history at Miami University and managing partner at Oxford Coffee Company, pours out a rich history of the coffee industry. Thurston argues that coffee is the most important tropical agricultural product traded in the world, and notes that there are at least 50 million coffee farm workers on the planet. He explores the history of coffee (the earliest written reference to the beverage was found in a 1497 letter from the Sinai Peninsula), growing conditions in each significant coffee-producing region, and the difficulties of growing coffee organically. He also covers such intriguing asides as the process of intestinal fermentation, in which animals digest and excrete coffee cherries (the product of which commands up to $300 a pound). He offers insights into grinding beans for espresso (it should be “the consistency of fine sand”), and traces the meanings of terms commonly associated with coffee, such as espresso (which originally meant “quick service” and came to refer to a type of coffee in 1947 Italy thanks to the Gaggia machine) and barista (which Mussolini is said to have coined). Thurston encourages coffee lovers to buy good-quality whole beans and grind them at home, and to buy “fair trade” coffee so more money makes its way to the farmers. Thurston’s sophisticated guide to coffee’s history, cultivation, and enjoyment will more than satisfy coffee aficionados. [em](Oct.) [/em]