Following on from last week’s Saturday Supplement reporting on the launch of “The Bitter Trade”, I thought I’d take this opportunity to plug three other books that I have read recently. What’s more, they’re all actually about coffee!
The first, “The London Coffee Guide”, does what it says on the cover. As an added bonus, there’s a brief but informative “coffee knowledge” section at the end. Coincidently, I was also at its launch (it came out at London Coffee Festival).
The second, “Coffee Obsession” by Anette Moldvaer of London coffee roasters, Square Mile, is published by Dorling Kindersley. It’s a wonderful introduction to the world of coffee, covering everything from growing coffee to making and drinking it, and includes everything in between.
My final book, “From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe”, is by Robert Leigh. It deals with the author’s trip from his home in Liverpool to the coffee growing regions of Ethiopia where he was researching a report on traceability and sustainability in the coffee industry for a UK coffee importer. A first person account of his journey, “From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe” is beautifully written and is an honest, penetrating insight into coffee growing and production in present-day Ethiopia.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Having written about the launch of “The Bitter Trade” last week, a historical novel set in London coffeehouses of the late 17th century, I thought I ought to turn to some books that are actually about coffee itself. The first of these is “The London Coffee Guide”, by Allegra Publishing. I was given a copy of this by Guy, one of the authors, at this year’s London Coffee Festival, having also been given a copy of last year’s guide at last year’s festival.
As much as I rely on the London’s Best Coffee app on my smartphone to find my way around the London coffee scene, there is nothing quite like having a real book in my hands when I sit down to do my research. “The London Coffee Guide” is a beautifully produced, high-quality publication, which I find really useful. I should, by the way, point out that the “The London Coffee Guide” also has its own app, but since it’s only available for Apple products, I don’t (can’t) use it. I’ll also give a plug for my friend and fellow blogger Kate Beard (aka A Southern Belle in London), whose wonderful photography graces the guide in places.
My second book is “Coffee Obsession” by Anette Moldvaer. I was given this by Piers Alexander, the author of “The Bitter Trade” as a thank you (bribe?) for attending the novel’s launch at Prufrock Coffee. It’s a full colour, coffee table book, a mixture of text, graphics and pictures. In terms of looks, it has that “wow” factor, but in fairness, it also has a lot of in-depth knowledge behind the pretty pictures (too many books I know just stop at the pretty pictures).
There’s a section on what coffee actually is, where it comes from and how it’s prepared (ie how it gets from coffee plant to what you and I know as a roasted coffee bean). There’s also a section on making coffee, including grinding and storing coffee, plus a separate section on different brewing techniques. However, the bulk of the book is taken up with a section on the different coffee beans from around the world and another on different recipes, that is, different ways of making coffee, of which there are over 100.
So, onto my final book, which I bought all by myself and have actually read from cover to cover (the other two are more dip in, dip out reference books). Robert Leigh’s “From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe” is a deeply impressive work on two levels. On one level is the picture that Robert paints of present day Ethiopia, which stretches far beyond coffee growing and production. He tells the story as it happened, giving his impressions of the country, its people, its customs.
On another level is the author’s brutal honesty. We see his tiredness, coming off the plane and going straight to work, being driven hundreds of miles to visit the coffee plantations. There is no detached journalism here, this is personal and opinionated, yet never biased or one-sided. For example, we share his shock at seeing children working in coffee processing but also see the other side of the story, the economic necessity that drives them to work at such a young age. I cannot praise it highly enough.
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