Some time ago I got an email from The British Library that they were publishing a coffee book: The Philosophy of Coffee. This book about the history of coffee is written by Brian Williams, a British coffee blogger. I got a copy and here is my book review.
When the package arrived I was so thrilled to open it up and have the book in my hands. I have to say that this book is completely different than the ones I’ve seen. Forget all the things you know about coffee books with the fancy cover, photos and layout. Let’s get back the moment you went to the library and grab an old novel from a shelf. You open up the book and you see the text, the font that is used. The tiny letters. Do you remember the smell of that book? That’s the kind of the feeling you get when you got a copy of The Philosophy of Coffee in your hands. It’s like reading a novel. Going back in time with the story.
When reading this coffee book you are going back in time to the history of coffee. Every phase is so well written and completely. No doubt that there was something left unspoken. It starts with where the first coffee was found, in Ethiopia. The story with Kaldi and his goats. In the following chapters you get to know more about how coffee came to Europe, the start of coffee houses, how coffee was spread around the world and how coffee became part of a culture, and became a social thing.
Don’t expect fancy photos in this book to fill pages. All images in The Philosophy of Coffee are really adding something to the text. They make everything more clear. If you are not a very visual person, the images will help you to create a complete story in your mind. it’s like going through a history book at school, only this book is all in black and white.
It was interesting to read that the VOC (Dutch East India Company) played a big role in growing coffee for commercial trade. The VOC, actually Pieter Van dan Broeck, brought the first coffee (some seeds or a plant that’s not sure) from Mocha to Amsterdam where it was plant in a botanical garden. The Dutch wanted to start growing coffee for commercial trade, but because growing coffee isn’t possible in Europe they took the plants to their colony Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and later to Indonesia (Java). I didn’t know the Dutch were so involved in coffee although we are big coffee lovers and consumers.
Next to the fact that it’s an informative book which gives you knowledge, it also very relaxing to read this book. I’ve been taking this reading material everywhere. Because of the small size and it hardly has any weight it’s easy to bring with you. I had to take the train to Sitges one day and could read this in the train. And it was my daytime activity together with watching the chemex appearing in Friends on Netflix on a rainy sunday with a cup of filter coffee in cosy bed.
It was so much fun to read this book, because my favorite subject in high school was history. I’ve learned so much about the VOC for example, but don’t remember anything anymore. So, it wasn’t only about getting to know more about the history of coffee, but also about my own country. Which makes me feel that I am even more connected to coffee now as before. I can really recommend this coffee book although is completely different than what you would expect from a coffee book.
The only disadvantages for me is not that it’s written in English, but I think the writer used a quiet a high level of English. Which makes it hard to get through or maybe if you’re not a pro in English hard to understand. It took me quiet some time to get through the book, because I really needed to be focused to read it.
I think Brian Williams did a great job here with The Philosophy of Coffee. It’s a complete story and full of details. Nothing left unspoken here. Thanks to the British Library to send me a copy of the lovely coffee book.
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