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Book Review by Daniel Cox

 The Birth of Coffee by Linda and Daniel Lorenzetti Clarkson Potter/Publishers, November 2000  Price $45.

At first glance "The Birth of Coffee" looks like just another 'coffee table book- glossy pictures and minimal substance-the kind you leaf through but don't really read.  A careful look at the preface, however, will reveal to any serious coffee professional the authenticity and depth that the co-authors Linda and Daniel Lorenzetti, bring to the subject. If you have traveled to a coffee producing country the images portrayed will bring a rush of senses to the eye, the nose, the hands and the heart. This book makes the reader FEEL coffee and people.

The core of the book revolves around eight coffee growing countries. Although there are about fifty countries in the world that grow coffee the selection of these eight represents the diversity of quality coffees grown throughout the four major growing regions: Central America, South America, Africa & Middle East, and Indonesia.

The book's text describes the labor and attention that goes into growing and producing coffee. The people who care for coffee are as much a focus of the book as coffee itself. Little is actually mentioned about the taste of each country's coffees, which I found to be refreshing, as most writers tend to overstate and misdiagnose the tastes and smells of individual coffees.

Linda Lorenzetti does an admirable job of describing the varied coffee cultures and methodologies in each country. Her writing is excellent: clear, concise and interesting. She describes the labor, the intricacies and mores without the blood, guts and gore which could have easily been entwined and distracting.

The photographic portraits are just that. Each picture has been delicately chosen and framed to explain a detail or emotion without clutter. Daniel Lorenzetti's style of using only sepia calls attention to detail without the use of blatant color. Initially I was not drawn to this style but the more I've opened the book the more I have been able to concentrate on nuances that I might have easily overlooked with the use of color. Two pictures stand out One is set in Ethiopia where the smoke of the cooking fires is seeping through the thatched roof with a ghost-like quality. The other depicts a pair of hands filled with coffee being fermented and the slight wetness of the worker's hands is just ever so slightly highlighted. It looks almost as if the photo was retouched but it wasn't.

The Birth of Coffee is a beautifully produced book laid out with many fine touches; each page is set within a delicate border that bespeaks quality. The photographs tell their own unwritten story that greatly compliments the text. Together they make this a coffee book worth owning and referring to often. It is also the ideal gift for a coffee professional. 

Lastly the printing paper and layout style, each page within a border is a touch that bespeaks quality.

Book review copyright Tea and Coffee