The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Coffee & Tea, by Travis Arndorfer and Kristine Hansen
While I have had fewer than five cups of coffee or so my entire life, I am relatively well known as a fan of sweet tea . As I had a book about coffee coming out on my blog soon I thought it would be good to pair that book with another one on a similar fashion, and so I found this enjoyable book and thought it worthwhile to explore what it is that made coffee and tea so worthwhile as an area of study. What I found is that both coffee and tea have a lot more going on than meets the eye and that both drinks have long histories and a recent history that includes a great deal of differentiation in order to market to niche audiences and encourage people to deal with a barrage of a seemingly infinite variety of choices. All of this I find greatly interesting despite the fact that I do not care for coffee at all and do not care for it more after reading this book than I did beforehand. Whether or not that is a failure of the book or simply the fact that my interest in coffee is more intellectual I will leave for the reader to decide.
In terms of its contents this book is very heavily slanted towards talking about coffee rather than tea, spending about 2/3 of the 300 pages talking about coffee and only the remaining third or so talking about tea culture. The first part of the book talks about coffee as the other black gold, pointing out that next to oil it is the biggest world commodity in terms of export value. The first chapter talks about the basics of the coffee bean, and then the authors move on to growing and processing coffee, and coffee origins and regions. The second part of the book looks at capturing coffee’s flavor, with chapters on roasting, cupping and blending, brew tools, and brewing basics. The third part of the book has a series of chapters on the Espresso family, beginning with some basics, navigating the menu of a cafe, looking at equipment, talking about extraction, preparing milk, drink making, and giving a discussion about the barista as a career. The fourth part of the book finally takes a look at tea, its various types and its discovery and spread, along with how it is grown and processed, the teas of the world, various “tisanes” or herbal or nontea teas, as well as blending and brewing teas and tea culture and tea rituals. The fifth and final book looks at the holistic side of coffee and tea, its humanitarian concerns and its health benefits and risks. The main text of the book is followed by a glossary of terms, a brief discussion of food pairings, and a list of coffee and tea resource that may or may not be up to date.
As a whole, this is a book that is designed for people who enjoy coffee a lot more than I do. In particular this is a book for a certain hipster audience of fans of coffee and tea who enjoy determining various blends and are fascinated by questions of how the drinks change based on small changes in how they are prepared with overpriced equipment, especially at home. The hipster mentality of this book extends to the book’s lengthy discussions about fair trade and the benefits of buying coffee beans and self-roasting or buying whole leaf tea because buying preroasted beans and bag tea is too mainstream and too “stale.” Admittedly, not all aspects of this book were to my tastes, but as a whole this was an interesting and informative and thought-provoking book, and definitely a wortwhile one for anyone who wants to know a bit more about their caffeinated beverages.
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