3 books about coffee

March 25, 2011

Not long ago, America’s penchant for coffee seemed to be waning, but that death knell was premature. The United States remains the largest consumer of coffee — roughly 25 percent of the world market. So grab a cup of joe and pore over this trio of books paying homage to the favored bean.

1. COFFEE TALK: The Stimulating Story of the World’s Most Popular Brew, by Morton Satin (Prometheus, $21.95). According to this charming volume, coffee is technically a seed, not a bean. Morton Satin, who became something of an expert on food working for multinational corporations and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, offers a delightful, lively take on the beverage’s origin (Ethiopia); its perfecting (Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world); the rise of the coffeehouse as social nexus (Europe and North America); and the development of gourmet coffee in such outlets as Peet’s in Berkeley, Calif., and of course Starbucks.

2. EVERYTHING BUT THE COFFEE: Leaning About America from Starbucks, by Bryant Simon (Univ. of California; paperback, $17.95). The author is interested in Americans’ rampant consumerism (what he calls a “postneed society”), and what better vehicle is at hand than the Starbucks phenomenon? Simon argues that, like many other corporations crafting brand images around the world, Starbucks set out to fill a vacuum left by the fading role of public institutions and civic society.

3. ONWARD: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, by Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon (Rodale, $25.99). Schultz made Starbucks what it is, and this book might be considered his response to its many detractors. He can also point to results: Since he returned to the company in 2008, Starbuck’s has enjoyed a rebound in sales, record profits and higher customer traffic.

Christopher Schoppa

schoppac@washpost.com

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