Coffee: A Drink for the Devil

Book Review

Richard Brown, last updated: 23rd February 2017

Coffee: A Drink for the Devil by Paul Chrystal (Amberley Publishing), 2016 96pp., £9.99 paper, ISBN 978-1-4456-4939-2

In the Western world, coffee consumption is around one-third that of tap water and the poet T.S. Eliot commented that ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.’ After petroleum, coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world. Over 7 million metric tons are produced annually. By the end of 2015, Great Britain had more than 20,000 coffee shops across the country, and even after fifteen years of rapid expansion, Britain’s coffee-shop sector continues to grow. Even though a pope once called it ‘the devil’s drink’, it was banned on pain of death by an Ottoman Sultan and the Orthodox Church in Abyssinia would not drink it until 1889 when it decided it was not solely a ‘Muslim drink’, there is a jar in every kitchen and drinking coffee is and has been an important part of people’s lives.

However you drink your coffee, this book brings together the facts and ephemera relating to this globally crucial beverage, examining its origins and the stories of its discovery, its production and its growing popularity over time.  In doing so it provides valuable insights into coffee’s important place in British life and it does so in a very readable way with many colour illustrations.  Well worth reading.