5 Great Books About Coffee


[Photograph: Just Coffee Cooperative on Flickr]

Nothing makes a better partner for a great cup of coffee than a good book to scan while sipping. Whether you're looking to learn more about the history of that beautiful elixir, or to simply be transported to its tropical habitat (for better or worse), here are five titles that belong on any bean-lover's bookshelf.

God in a Cup

Part travel story, part character profile, and part love letter to coffee, this narrative nonfiction book by Michaele Weissman takes readers not only from crop to cup, but from seed to roast, and from barista to customer. An insider look into the kooky, intense, and occasionally unsavory world of the coffee industry, God in a Cup is at the very least sure to inspire a severe espresso craving, if not some serious wanderlust.

Brewing Justice

Unraveling the myths and methods of the coffee supply chain can seem an insurmountable task. "Fair Trade," "Direct Trade," "sustainability"—what does all this mean for the folks who harvest the coffee, and ultimately, what does it mean to those of us on the drinking end? In this vivid and heady exploration of coffee's affect on the governments, economic stability (or instability), and the culture of its origin countries, author and sociology professor Daniel Jaffee asks us to take a good long look at the beans we choose to buy.

Out of Africa

I know I included this in my gift guide this year, but it's worth repeating—and adding to your library list: An epic sort-of-a-novel, sort-of-a-memoir, Out of Africa provides a truly unique perspective into life on a Kenyan coffee farm. Narrated (and written) by a Danish colonial woman navigating the maddeningly complex social and political agricultural world in East Africa, the story captures the trials and tribulations behind the beans in exquisite detail.

Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques

Geeky, charming, sciencey, and, yes, perhaps slightly dated, this text by coffee guru and Espresso Vivace owner David Schomer has long been the barista bible. With its thorough primers on espresso extraction, machine operation, milk steaming, and even latte art, Professional Techniques is kind of like inviting your favorite barista into your own kitchen for a lesson on espresso 101.

All About Coffee

Okay, maybe they didn't have everything figured out by 1922, when William H. Ukers penned this classic tome on java, but there is so much indelible information in his exploration of coffee history, etymology, botany, and brewing science (for starters) that it's still considered a great and necessary read for coffee lovers everywhere. Available as a download from both Google and Project Gutenberg, this is one buzzed book you can sip for free—maybe you can use some of the extra dough as a tip for that afternoon latte.