February 25, 2009

Books: The Devil's Cup by Stewart Lee Allen

Being rather partial to a daily fix of caffeine ~ in fact I find it virtually impossible to get going in the morning without a cup ~ a book that suggests that coffee is one of the major driving forces in world history had its obvious attractions.

The Devil's Cup is part travelogue, part social history and part theorising on the contribution the bitter beverage has made to world history. Stewart Lee Allen takes us most of the way around the world from the birthplace of the bean (Ethiopia) through its rise in Yemen and the Ottoman Empire, and then Europe. He follows the trail to the New World, ending his trip in the US, land of the truck stop and coffee chains.

All the time, the prose is witty and informative, hitting just the right spot, like a perfect cup should do. The book is written in a gonzo journalist style, with tales of Allen's adventures and accounts of the various characters he meets interwoven with fascinating tidbits of information about the use of coffee in past societies, and how it was introduced (by foul means and fair) to different parts of the world.

A highly entertaining read which left me gasping for more.

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