Coffee: A Dark History

By Antony Wild. <i>W.W. Norton</i>.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


In this polemical, grandiose, yet thoroughly entertaining book, Antony Wild looks at the historical influence of coffee, for better and for worse. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Wild, a veteran coffee trader, credits the drink with opening the eyes of the world, literally. Once coffee usurped ale as Europe’s morning beverage of choice, the Enlightenment followed. The coffee shop is, he writes, “the place where all the best revolutions began.”

Ever since the Boston Tea Party, Americans have seen coffee as a symbol of their independence, and Wild insists that without the stuff, we would not be the hyperactively ambitious nation we are today. Instant blends helped GIs slog through World War II, while back home, caffeine fueled entrepreneurial baby boomers’ all-nighters. In this story, destiny always takes a second cup.

The flip side of such boosterism is the devastating effect the coffee trade has had on the developing world. But Wild is hopeful that some benefits are starting to trickle down to Third World farmers. By paying extra for a cup of “fair trade,” latte lovers might make coffee finally live up to its revolutionary potential.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.