Coffee: A Dark History

By Antony Wild. <i>W.W. Norton</i>.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


In this polemical, grandiose, yet thoroughly entertaining book, Antony Wild looks at the historical influence of coffee, for better and for worse. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Wild, a veteran coffee trader, credits the drink with opening the eyes of the world, literally. Once coffee usurped ale as Europe’s morning beverage of choice, the Enlightenment followed. The coffee shop is, he writes, “the place where all the best revolutions began.”

Ever since the Boston Tea Party, Americans have seen coffee as a symbol of their independence, and Wild insists that without the stuff, we would not be the hyperactively ambitious nation we are today. Instant blends helped GIs slog through World War II, while back home, caffeine fueled entrepreneurial baby boomers’ all-nighters. In this story, destiny always takes a second cup.

The flip side of such boosterism is the devastating effect the coffee trade has had on the developing world. But Wild is hopeful that some benefits are starting to trickle down to Third World farmers. By paying extra for a cup of “fair trade,” latte lovers might make coffee finally live up to its revolutionary potential.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate