A Rich and Tantalizing Brew: A History of How Coffee Connected the World
The history of coffee is much more than the tale of one luxury good—it is a lens through which to consider various strands of world history, from food and foodways to religion and economics and sociocultural dynamics.
A Rich and Tantalizing Brew traces the history of coffee from its cultivation and brewing first as a private pleasure in the highlands of Ethiopia and Yemen through its emergence as a sought-after public commodity served in coffeehouses first in the Muslim world, and then traveling across the Mediterranean to Italy, to other parts of Europe, and finally to India and the Americas. At each of these stops the brew gathered ardent aficionados and vocal critics, all the while reshaping patterns of socialization.
Taking its conversational tone from the chats often held over a steaming cup, A Rich and Tantalizing Brew offers a critical and entertaining look at how this bitter beverage, with a little help from the tastes that traveled with it—chocolate, tea, and sugar—has connected people to each other both within and outside of their typical circles, inspiring a new context for sharing news, conducting business affairs, and even plotting revolution.
A Personal Journey to Coffee
The joys, and as it turns out, the perils, of reconsidering coffee’s history came to me not simply from my love for the beverage itself but from years of trying to answer a series of nagging questions about how the connections and intersections of my research in the history of the early modern Mediterranean and my work in the history of the premodern and modern Middle East, primarily the Levant, might be integrated. Compounding my professional interests was an inability to extricate myself from the Italy of my family’s past or from the lessons learned, and questions unanswered, that my professional and personal travels around the Mediterranean continue to inspire. In the cups of coffee enjoyed on both sides of that sea I found not only a remedy for years of discontent but also a product with a rich story that demanded a retelling.