Considered required reading for coffee enthusiasts since it was published, Uncommon Grounds, by Mark Pendergrast, fulfills its sub title nicely -- maybe a bit too nicely. That is, it details, in often less-than-glamorous terms, the geopolitical history of coffee.
The story begins with a recounting of the popular legend regarding coffee's discovery. The rest of the opening chapter deals with coffee's formative years, complete with a myriad of interesting anecdotes. Unfortunately, this is easily the most entertaining part of the book.
The bulk of Uncommon Grounds deals with the politics of coffee, specifically Latin America. The reader is inundated with a litany of tragedies, beginning with coffee's introduction to the region and preceding to the end of the 20th century. I do not mean to say that these events are unimportant, or that they ought to be glossed over.
Rather, my contention is simply this: Uncommon Grounds focuses too much for my liking on "how coffee transformed our world" and not enough on coffee. It is more a book for geopolitical history buffs than java geeks.