Coffeeland A History
‘Thoroughly engrossing … his literary gifts and prodigious research make for a deeply satisfying reading experience studded with narrative surprise, hopping back and forth between El Salvador and the wider world’ Michael Pollan, The Atlantic
Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities in the history of the global economy and the world’s most popular drug. The very word ‘coffee’ is one of the most widespread on the planet. Augustine Sedgewick’s brilliant new history tells the hidden and surprising story of how this came to be, tracing coffee’s 400-year transformation into an everyday necessity.
The story is one that few coffee drinkers know. It centres on the volcanic highlands of El Salvador, where James Hill, born in the slums of nineteenth-century Manchester, founded one of the world’s great coffee dynasties. In the process, Hill helped to turn El Salvador into perhaps the most intensive monoculture in modern history, a place of extraordinary productivity, inequality and violence.
The book follows coffee from the Hill family plantations into the supermarkets, kitchens and work places of the United States, and finally into today’s omnipresent cafes. Sedgewick reveals the unexpected consequences of the rise of coffee, which reshaped large areas of the tropics, transformed understandings of energy, and ultimately made us dependent on a drug served in a cup.