UNCOMMON GROUNDS (Revised Edition)
By Mark Pendergrast
Reviewed by Donald Schoenholt
Uncommon Grounds, Mark Pendergrast’s excellent 1999 history of coffee and the US coffee trade is now available in an updated edition that takes the story of coffee in North America through the first decade of the 21st Century.
Though there have been other books that portend to cover the recent history of the trade published in recent years, Pendergrast brings a level of scholarship, breadth of scope and depth of understanding to the subject that is unmatched by his rivals. Uncommon Grounds remains the best history of coffee and the coffee trade to be published in English in over three-quarters of a century.
Mark Pendergrast has provided both to the casual reader and the coffee professional a perspective on the history of coffee and the coffee trade that has the ring of truth.
Pendergrast focuses on the documented true story with the adventure and lure of fortune to be found in the brown gold that is coffee. We sense the anguish and torment of peon and slave, and walk with the silk-shirted personalities of the 19th Century who created the great coffee fortunes. We cry with the Central American farmers, and cheer on the fledgling specialty coffee roaster/pioneers of the 1970's who created the new coffee business which heralded the myriad of consumer coffee choices of today. We follow the next generation and the next, into the 21st Century, as waves of new young entrepreneurial business people expand their own and the consumer’s understanding of just how strong good coffee can really be, not only in the cup but in the economies and personal lives of individuals in origin and in consumer lands.
The reader is swept along with the flow of history, as it is paralleled in the telling of coffee's fortunes and the fortunes of the men and businesses that have pursued its financial promise.
By the last chapter Final Grounds, Pendergrast has our cup running over with knowledge and understanding. Uncommon Grounds' text, authoritatively annotated and footnoted, brings coffee into sharp focus, warts and all. The picture is clear, well textured and on balance, an appealing and fascinating one.
Uncommon Grounds, Revised Edition, by Mark Pendergrast is published by Basic Books (ISBN 978-0-465-01836-9). It is a must read for the serious coffee person, and highly recommended as an addition to your personal or business coffee library.
September 12, 2010