• Uncommon Grounds

  • The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
  • By: Mark Pendergrast
  • Narrated by: Matthew Boston
  • Length: 16 hrs and 58 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Uncommon Grounds tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in ancient Abyssinia to the advent of Starbucks. In this updated edition of the classic work, Mark Pendergrast reviews the dramatic changes in coffee culture over the past decade, from the disastrous "Coffee Crisis" that caused global prices to plummet to the rise of the Fair Trade movement and the "third-wave" of quality-obsessed coffee connoisseurs. As the scope of coffee culture continues to expand, Uncommon Grounds remains more than ever a brilliantly entertaining guide to the currents of one of the world's favorite beverages.

©1999 Mark Pendergrast (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about Uncommon Grounds

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
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    3 out of 5 stars

Décent overarching review of coffee history digressing into its American commercialization

Maybe it’s not the author’s fault, maybe it’s the dehumanizing consumerism of America that makes its story in this book seem more like a litany of chronological facts or belabored book report rather than investigative inquiry or curiosity. But in any case the book is packed with good facts but leaves you wanting to understand how coffee mingled with the American human imagination and not just how it was marketed by industry leaders.

3 people found this helpful

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Encyclopedic breadth, but too dry

Huge props to the author's fine research and ambitious thoroughness. Alas, he is not a storyteller. A history of coffee should have been an utterly fascinating read, but I found it a chore to finish, despite my gnawing curiosity, owing to the book's lack of narrative flourish, themes, patterns, throughlines, and the other analysis and synthesis that makes great history books great. It's true, I now know a lot more about coffee, but I feel as though it was an enormous missed opportunity. The book's encyclopedic breadth was unfortunately matched with an encyclopedic writing style for much of the book.

I also found the recording to be lacking. I never quite grew accustomed to Boston's voice for this project, though his reading was clear and professional. Worse however -- and this will sound like a quibble, but it was quite severe in its impact -- is the audiobook's strange production when it comes to spacing between sections. Other than chapter breaks, there are no pauses between sections, which consistently created jarring transitions that required effort to figure out that we have left the previous section and started a new, virtually unrelated topic. I've never experienced this in any of several hundred non-fiction audiobooks, so it's a bit puzzling how the publisher allowed it to happen. When you add this to the author's lack of narrative structure beyond the straightforward dates-and-places of other dry tomes, this strange production quirk oddly contributed to the book's overall encyclopedic feel. Which is unfortunate, as these gapless section breaks could be so easily fixed by any entry-level sound engineer.

1 person found this helpful

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WARNING: WILL MAKE YOU A COFFEE SNOB!

i was happy drinking the swill that spewed from my old coffee pot until I heard this book. I had no idea what I was missing.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating daily brew

Amazing to learn of the history of
My morning cup. The characters tied to this history make it even more fascinating . #espresso

1 person found this helpful

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A history of coffee!

Uncommon Grounds

A history of coffee!

I found this book fascinating…but then I love history and I love coffee, so I may be biased.

The author follows coffee from it’s inception on the world markets centuries ago to it’s modern “Fair Trade” usage.

Coffee was instrumental in warfare, in governments and…addiction.

One more recent fact, speaking of fair trade…for the longest time the people who raised and harvested coffee had never even tasted it.

Most may become bored with the minutiae in this book, but I found it interesting.

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Solid

Quite informative and a good listen. The title is more mystical than the text. Basically a cultural study of coffee as a commercial crop. It goes through the history of commercialisation with an emphasis on the big figures, their approaches, and the public response to them. Goes pretty quick on the science of the plants but doesn't seem to skip anything that a normal person would want to know. Does a very respectable job of consistently comparing the wealth of coffee elites vs the people who grow the coffee. There is a fair amount of names, dates, contributions which might be tedious to some. Other reviews were stuck on that approach. Made for riveting details in the narrative to me. Would highly recommend to coffee drinkers and the general public as commercialisation must be kept in check as the history of coffee and all other crops teach us.

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A chore to listen to

I’m convinced this man just wants to hear himself talk. If this book were cut down to just relevant information, it would be 1/3 it’s current size. Skip this and get the World Almanac of Coffee (Hoffmann, 2018) instead.

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Good audio book on many modern day coffee history

I really enjoyed Uncommon Ground: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. The audio book covered many modern day historical accounts of coffee. As a Master Coffee Roaster myself this book taught me many valuable insides about coffee and its many impacts globally. I highly recommend it to all coffee roasters, baristas, and others who simply just don't "like" coffee but "LOVE" coffee as much as I do.

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Good and informative but tedious.

A thorough history of the coffee industry. I particularly liked the first part where it delves into the origin and development of coffee as a crop and gives other quirky facts. The middle/end got a little dry for me as it focused on the history of specific coffee companies and their development (and regression) which I wasn’t expecting but in hindsight can see the value of knowing. All-in-all a solid book for any coffee professional, lover, or nerd.

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