Book review: The Devil’s Cup by Stewart Lee Allen


For all you caffeine fiends and java junkies out there, this is your book!

Stewart Lee Allen has travelled around the world and chronicled the history of the world according to coffee in The Devil’s Cup. From Ethiopia to India and from Paris to Oklahoma, this books leaves no ground unexplored – coffee grounds, that is.

The book begins where it all started: Ethiopia. Coffee was used in religion, medicine and even in the slave trade. Originally, only the leaves were picked and chewed to create a drug-like high. It wasn’t until coffee was brought to Yemen that it was brewed into the drink we know today.

Istanbul’s acceptance of coffee was a huge influence across Europe. When the Ottomans tried to invade Vienna, they lost and fled, leaving behind coffee and camels. People began drinking coffee and soon, coffeehouses began popping up across the city, becoming a place to gossip and share progressive ideas.

On to London and Paris. In the mid 1600s, coffee was more popular than beer. Coffeehouses, like in Vienna, offered a place for impromptu offices, a social scene where news could be exchanged and a community where progressive citizens could organise and begin revolutions.

The United States rebelled against the United Kingdom by rejecting tea and choosing coffee. The type of coffee is very different from that of the Middle East and Europe. Early on, coffee came in a can (cringe) and tasted burnt. Yes, American’s rebellion from tea turned them to terribly brewed coffee.

Eventually, Italian-roasted coffee made it’s way to San Francisco-based Peat’s Coffee and eventually to Seattle’s Starbucks. The introduction and subsequent popularity of dark-roasted coffee changed communities in the US and created neighbourhood living rooms.

The world has definitely been changed by coffee. The Devil’s Cup does an excellent job of showing the world’s history through the viewpoint of coffee. Whether you like coffee or you love coffee, it will certainly change the way you look at your morning cup.

If you want more reading recommendations, check out Travel Fiction and Memoirs.

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