• Coffeeland

  • One Man's Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug
  • By: Augustine Sedgewick
  • Narrated by: Jason Culp
  • Length: 14 hrs and 56 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (107 ratings)

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Coffeeland  By  cover art

Coffeeland

By: Augustine Sedgewick
Narrated by: Jason Culp
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Publisher's Summary

The epic story of how coffee connected and divided the modern world

Coffee is an indispensable part of daily life for billions of people around the world - one of the most valuable commodities in the history of global capitalism, the leading source of the world's most popular drug, and perhaps the most widespread word on the planet. Augustine Sedgewick's Coffeeland tells the hidden and surprising story of how this came to be, tracing coffee's 500-year transformation from a mysterious Muslim ritual into an everyday necessity. 

This story is one that few coffee drinkers know. It centers on the volcanic highlands of El Salvador, where James Hill, born in the slums of Manchester, England, founded one of the world's great coffee dynasties at the turn of the 20th century. Adapting the innovations of the Industrial Revolution to plantation agriculture, Hill helped to turn El Salvador into perhaps the most intensive monoculture in modern history, a place of extraordinary productivity, inequality, and violence. 

Following coffee from Hill family plantations into supermarkets, kitchens, and workplaces across the United States, and finally into today's ubiquitous cafés, Sedgewick reveals how coffee bred vast wealth and hard poverty, at once connecting and dividing the modern world. In the process, both El Salvador and the United States earned the nickname "Coffeeland", but for starkly different reasons, and with consequences that reach into the present. This extraordinary history of coffee opens up a new perspective on how the globalized world works, ultimately provoking a reconsideration of what it means to be connected to faraway people and places through the familiar things that make up our day-to-day lives.

©2020 Augustine Sedgewick (P)2020 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Thought-provoking and gracefully written... The breadth of Sedgewick’s analysis of coffee’s place in the world economy astonishes, as does his ability to bring historical figures to life...[an] eye-opening history.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"An intriguing account that darkens the depths of that daily cup of joe." (Kirkus Reviews)  

“How did a cup of coffee become the everday addiction of millions? In this impressively wide-ranging, personality-filled history, Augustine Sedgewick untangles the routes that carried coffee from the slopes of El Salvador’s volcanoes to the shelves of US supermarkets. To enter Coffeeland is to visit a realm of ruthless entrepreneurs, hard-working laborers, laboratory chemists, and guerrilla fighters. You’ll leave with your appreciation for your morning brew forever enriched.” (Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch)  

What listeners say about Coffeeland

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Unfortunately

This book uses the history of coffee as an anecdote to support an economic theory. As an economics book, its lack of much discussion of the theory comes off as insufficiently rigorous. As a history book, one wonders whether they have learned much about coffee (or the world) or have been led down a carefully chosen though apparently meandering path in order to come away with a particular view.

9 people found this helpful

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  • EM
  • 07-29-20

Came to learn of coffee, learned so much MORE!

I am a Christ-follower with a desire to make this world a better place. While I am an outsider to the hospitality supply chain of coffee from earth to cup to lips, I see a great opportunity to utilize this gracious beverage as a vehicle to impact lives for the better through discipleship. Visit our FB page, International Coffee Cooperative, to join in the conversation and add your perspective.

Reading this coffee history and it's focus on the Hill family and El Salvador, I have been blessed seeing the struggle of others and some triumphs we have gained as a history of relationships and labor and comfort. This book has been a useful education into the scene behind the sip...and like Jaime Hill, I will never be the same.

I highly recommend this book! The thorough research and depth of the coffee story is highly beneficial to our understanding of what we as consumers enjoy because of the work of others.

I listened to the Audible version but plan to buy the hardbound book for my library.

2 people found this helpful

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Superb history

Lively book that relates a grand historical narrative spanning a century+ using one export crop, coffee, and one family as a central focus. I loved it!

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I love coffee

A absorbing story of coffee in El Salvador from the early days of an English settler to the struggle of the poor native workers trying to eke out life on the plantations.
It isn’t a pretty history but thanks to one family member we can learn.

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A must read for every coffee drinker!

From now on, I will never see or drink my cup of coffee the same way I did before.

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2 Stories in One

This book is amazing! It tells the story of coffee and of United States history. I learned about how US citizens treated Latin Americans in their own countries. I learned about the many good things that President Hoover did. I learned about the science behind coffee and caffeine. There is so much here in just-One book.

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  • l
  • 07-16-22

Superb narration by Jason Culp

An important story, and the narration by Jason Culp is excellent. The issues are important and troubling.

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very interesting

the history of coffee and how it impacted the history of Central America thru the years. very informative. an independent view of El salvodor.