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The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee
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The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  774 ratings  ·  111 reviews
In this captivating book, Stewart Lee Allen treks three-quarters of the way around the world on a caffeinated quest to answer these profound questions: Did the advent of coffee give birth to an enlightened western civilization? Is coffee, indeed, the substance that drives history? From the cliffhanging villages of Southern Yemen, where coffee beans were first cultivated ei ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 1999)
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When the sweet Poison of the treacherous Grape
Had acted on the world a general rape;...
Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome liquor
That heals the stomach and makes the genius quicker.
I have read this book this weekend for the third time. I never mentioned in my initial review that this is one of the most interesting travel journals I have read.


It was a review: ‘The Cream of the crop’ – by Neil Pendock - Sunday Time Lifestyle, Decembe
I'd lost track of this book. I knew I'd read a neat book about caffeine, but thought it was called Cafiends or something.

Get it? Cafe-Fiend? I'm pretty sure there was a great all-night coffee shop in Christchurch, New Zealand, somewhere near Cathedral Square, with this name, way back in 1992. I might have the name wrong. I'd just come down out of the mountains, practically running downhill with the thrill of being as healthy as I ever had after three months of on-and-off backpacking in the Sout
Well, it's mostly about coffee, but coffee as a theme to unify a travel adventure story of the penniless backpacking variety. This is not a book I would have picked out for myself, but it was a book club selection and I'm glad now I read it.

Allen's off-handed and fantastical claims as to the importance and centrality of coffee in mankind's advancement are just that, off-handed and fantastical, but thought-provoking nonetheless (he talks, for example, about pre- and post-coffee humanity, with the
Darya Conmigo


This is often my first immediate feeling about journalism and travelogue books. Dear author, you obviously did your research (as evidenced by lots of facts and by acknowledgements to a dozen libraries from different parts of the world - which as a librarian I really appreciated), you know a lot of stuff on the topic, so why on earth won't you share your sources with the rest of humanity, damn it?! You are telling me 90 per cent of the world coffee is coming from Mart
"the imams complained their mosques were empty while the coffee houses were always full" [p.49]
buku ini mengambil bentuk reportase perjalanan penulis melacak balik perjalanan kopi dalam sejarah dunia, sejak ia dikenal orang. ia memulainya dari ethiopia. tidak saja karena di situlah berawal legenda si penggembala kambing -kaldi- yang heran melihat tingkah kambing-kambingnya setelah mengunyah daun dan biji kopi, namun di situ jugalah kopi punya peran sosial di dunia sekitar timur tengah hin
Roberto Macias
This one is fairly interesting. So perhaps this is not a list of chronologically ordered facts about coffee, but it does explore the myths that have gone with the beverage. It also follows the steps of coffee (at least geographically) and includes a long list of interesting subjects. If anything it might send you on a path of discovery like for example the origin of Candomble and the Orixas in African religion as a consequence of slaves in Brazil and of course how coffee played a role in the cul ...more
Nicholas Marrone
I am a coffee drinker. I am also a world traveler and an amateur adventurist. Much of my reading takes place in a caffeine addled state in local cafes. This book provides an entertaining introduction to coffee culture around the world and one man's attempt to follow the historical path of coffee to its modern state.

While the prose is not beautiful, there are plenty of laughs and moments of insight during the story. I'm not sure I believe everything that happened but I don't really care. The boo
I really liked this book, but it is important to know what to expect. You will not find a history of coffee in the usual scholarly style.In fact, it is as much of a travelogue as it is a book on the history of coffee. The author follows the trail of coffee as it spread throughout the world. It tells the story in a lighthearted, trivia kind of way, but that does not diminish the value of the information, which is accurate. Rather, it is decidedly and intentionally non-scholarly and avoids any att ...more
Well it was interesting, that's for sure. As far as the completeness of the history, that's a bit questionable. The most authoritative history of coffee that I've come across (and still consider the best read on the subject) is Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. This book was a lot of travelogue with a bit of coffee's history thrown in for good measure. I will have to say however that I did come away with two things, a new coffee drink* ...more
If you can handle a wild ride you'll love this book. Who'd have thought someone would put his life on a limb (more that once) to follow the coffee trail. Crossing dangerous borders, um....Yemen in general.

Then there's his interesting philosophy about coffee houses. When they start infiltrating a culture, more diverse opinions are debated within coffee shops resulting in a country less war loving and more intellectual. The last sentence doesn't do Allen's philosophy justice. He argues it much mo
I'll admit that I picked up this paperback because on the cover it says that Anthony Bourdain thought it was "Absolutely riveting." I do love Bourdain.

This is a light read, part history of coffee and part hilarious travelogue - I liked the travelogue parts better than the history parts, but on the whole it is entertaining. I think it fell quite short of proving its thesis that coffee enlightened humanity, but it is still a fun book for a coffee-lover such as myself.

Here are some memorable quote
Part goofball travelogue, part anecdotal history of coffee. The author travels from Ethiopia to Yemen to Turkey to Vienna to Paris and finally to the US, tracing the major developments in the humble cup of joe. He has terrible judgment, continually involving , he becomes enmeshed in a con which involves shipping counterfeit paintings from Calcutta to Paris. He is stopped in rural Tennessee by police and has his car searched. The cops find a vial of pure caffeine ordered over the internet, which ...more
I finished the book last night. What do I think of it? Well, the book is entertaining at times, but also rather boring at other times. Some of the author's theories were quite far-fetched and not very well founded, I thought. The author is an art smuggler among other things... But, hey if the book is entertaining, I suppose that doesn't really matter for the quality of the book. A few quotes: Page 111: "At this time to refuse or neglect to give coffee to their wives was a legitimate cause for di ...more
Allen's travels from Kenya to Ethiopia to Yemen to India to Turkey to Austria to Germany to France to Brazil are quite well written and fun to read as he traces how coffee was first discovered in Africa and then transmitted to the wider world. It kind of reads like ne'er-do-well wanders four continents in search of coffee and book deal. However when Allen gets to the United States he kind of turns into a 35 year old teenager who is still being hassled by THE MAN. I found myself both really likin ...more
This was the most alternately rollicking and terrifying memoir I have read in a long time. The author is a fearless adventurer who seems to think nothing of setting sail on the Red Sea with a bunch of Somali refugees, going into a rebel area of Ethiopia in search of coffee leaves (Ethiopians made a sort of coffee-tea with them before beans were ever ground), wandering through Yemen by crowded taxi and working as a "nurse" in Mother Theresa's Calcutta hospice. He does all of this in search of the ...more
I am not super well-educated on coffee (translation: Sorry, I was raised with American coffee). With that in mind, I thought this book was an enjoyable read and journey for those who are interested in coffee. There are some discussions on entertaining and interesting stuff about the variety, cults, culture, and theories around coffee (how it got to where it is now, the social balance / injustice around the coffee production, how different cultures recognize/ dismiss it, etc). The author did spen ...more
A travel journal meets history, The Devil's Cup traces the history of coffee from a bush in Ethiopia to Yemen where it was first brewed to the Islamic world where it kept Muslims awake for their daily prayers to Europe where the French roasted it to serve as a laxative to Boston where colonists drank it after dumping tea and finally to the caffeine-addled drivers of Los Angeles.
Read and you'll discover how Lloyd's of London and the NYSE started out as coffee shops. You'll learn how the world's f
Kaitlyn Barrett
I love this mix of story, history and the subject matter. And the setting in Africa.

Overall, I like his story telling voice but the book is kind of an awkward blend of historical anecdotal information and travelogue. Parts of it worked better than others.

The latter part of the book where he’s traveling across the US looking for American coffee was pretty awful and it doesn’t feel real. I'm guessing the real story was prosaic and boring so he made things up to make it more exciting. It’s a stark
Cole Schoolland
Very fascinating account of the historical journey of coffee and chalk-full of nice little tidbits about its impact on society. However, it is pretty horribly written. As a narrative it starts strong but slightly annoying: we get it, traveling is dangerous. You are a brave. Through the book it starts to disintegrate and by the end it leaves the reader confused as to the purpose of the last 50 or so pages. I would skip the book and just spend an hour or two checking out the history of coffee on w ...more
I read this book on vacation 14 years ago. I remember laughing, and I remember learning a lot, and having a few insights. I don't remember what they were though… Want-to-read again, I guess, if I find a copy.
Friends of  Linebaugh Library
Don't let the tacky dust jacket fool you... this is a well written travel book following the origins of coffee through a trail wrought with danger and hilarity. This travel memoir follows on the trail of the origins of our daily grind--no not work, coffee!

Allen's travels from Kenya to Ethiopia to Yemen to India to Turkey to Austria to Germany to Paris to Brazil and, just about everyplace else that figures in the journey of the bean on it's way to becoming a staple of Western culture are quite we
Don't let the tacky dustjacket fool you... this is a well written travel book following the origins of coffee through a trail wrought with danger and hilarity. This travel memoir follows on the trail of the origins of our daily grind--no not work, coffee!

Allen's travels from Kenya to Ethiopia to Yemen to India to Turkey to Austria to Germany to Paris to Brazil and, just about everyplace else that figures in the journey of the bean on it's way to becoming a staple of Western culture are quite we
Chris D'Amore
Love coffee, didn't love the book. Allen's nearly aimless meanderings were interspersed with some interesting facts(?) about the legendary plant and its prevalence throughout history, but his stories make me think he'd be a great person to sit and share a cup with.

"After Adrien, we understood Texas. The spineless Christian gospel coming out our radio was supposed to sound the way our air conditioner felt. It was all about smooth living, tight jeans, and the love of The Lord Jesus H. Christ. A-me
The history of coffee combined into one easy to read travel story from an author that I would like to meet. A guy who followed his head and his heart and didn't shy from adventure. He isn't afraid to admit the truths about traveling, not all glamor and beauty but still wonderful in its own way. He took coffee at face value, acknowledge its rise through history, the drinks powerful influences on dominating societies but also adds in a viewpoint or two from credible sources. A good read, I came aw ...more
Amazing book about Stewart Lee Allen's journey's throughout the world in a quest to be educated and inform us about his study of coffee. It's history, the bizarre rituals that go back thousands of years will delight anyone that is a coffee fanatic like me. It's a travelogue of the best kind. VERY funny and a perfect book to read while sipping a brew!
Ignacio Zeleny
If you like coffee you should read this..It gives you an idea of its origin and its trip form Africa to the rest of the world. I dislike a bit some parts in which the author seem just to tell a part of his life in this book that form me are out of context but I enjoy the rest...
A story depicting the authors travel with tidbits of questionable facts but, if true, interesting facts. All in all highly recommended, a good book for the avid coffee junkie and a great place to start a journey into coffee history and culture.
This was an accidental buy for me at the annual library book sale. I bought this on an impulse and thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I have come to like this genre that involves travel writing and social history. The author traces the travails of the magical bean called coffee and how it has conquered and become an integral part of the social history of different parts of the world. It is interesting to read about the evolution of coffee as we know it now. Coming from southern Indian state of Tam ...more
Kathleen Huben
In The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee Allen explores the idea that the introduction of coffee into Europe led to the "birth of an enlightened Western civilization," an idea expressed by Jules Michelet in the 18th century. He follows the spread of coffee throughout the world from its birthplace in Ethiopia to its role in current American society.

I had a mixed reaction to the book, finding it an uneasy combination of history and travelogue. Overall I found it an interestin
John E
This book was not so much a history of the influence of coffee on world history as a romp though history and around the world using coffee as its vehicle. Lots of fun.
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“Beer for breakfast, ale for lunch, stout with dinner and a few mugs in between. The average Northern European, including women and children drank three liters of beer a day. That's almost two six-packs, but often the beer had a much higher alcoholic content. People in positions of power, like the police, drank much more. Finnish soldiers were given a ration of five liters of strong ale a day (about as much as seven six-packs). Monks in Sussex made do with 12 cans worth.” 2 likes
“Coffee and humanity both sprang from the same area in eastern Africa. What if some of those early ape-men nibbled on the bright red berries? What if the resulting mental stimulation opened them up to a new way of looking at old problems, much as it did Europeans? Could this group of berry nibblers be the Missing Link, and that memory of the bright but bitter-tasting fruit be the archetype for the story of the Garden of Eden?” 0 likes
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