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How do you take your coffee?

This book spills the beans on global coffee culture

The way people consume coffee says a lot about who they are – Lani Kingston researches the rich history of coffee culture around the world

Header photo by Alana Dimou, Spill the Beans (gestalten 2021)

In Korea’s dabangs (coffeehouses) an egg yolk was often added to a cup of black coffee: it was thought it would make the coffee less harsh on an empty stomach.

This drink – now out of fashion but common in the mid-twentieth century – was known as morning keopi, as it was very popular as a breakfast and beverage in one.

One yolk or two?

The way people consume coffee says a lot about who they are: their history, where they come from, their local history of trade and international connection, their tastes and preferences, and what influences they have been exposed to. While the caffeine fix is hard to ignore, this beloved hot drink holds a rich and diverse history that sinks deeper than the bottom of the cup.

Coffee can act as a common denominator when learning about cultures or time periods that are not our own – a familiar thread through the unfamiliar. While coffee may look different in Vietnam than it does in Yemen, it has the same unmistakable taste beloved worldwide, which helps bind us together. However, this all-consuming, centuries-spanning romance we have enjoyed with a simple cup of water infused with the seeds of a fruit from Africa has its effect on our planet. Today, many countries, economies, and about 125 million people rely on coffee cultivation and export for their livelihood.

The author in her happy place: Lani Kingston

Spill the Beans gives new meaning to the ‘coffee table book’. Portland, Oregon-based food writer and consultant Lani Kingston spent six caffeinated years travelling and researching into global coffee culture; delving deeply into local traditions through her work. This, her third book on coffee, summarises years of research and aims to honour and pay respect to these remarkable coffee cultures.

“Coffee is the world’s cup. Over 2.25 billion are brewed, sipped, and savored daily. A loyal companion and energetic facilitator of every day, coffee has sprouted an entire cafe culture and a booming industry,” she says.

“After working in coffee for a decade now, I have seen that European-led coffee culture often takes centre stage (especially in English publications). I began to obsessively research and learn about coffee cultures. I listened, learned, tasted, and brewed – and when I moved to the next country I told people of the coffee culture of the last.”


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Surprisingly, much of what she shared was relatively unknown elsewhere. “I wanted to help give these stories a platform, show how rich and diverse coffee as a topic can be.”

Spill the Beans takes the reader on a journey through Ethiopia, Guatemala, Vietnam, and many other countries in between, exploring the myriad ways in which coffee is produced, traded and enjoyed. It explores how the reliance on coffee production has brought both great gains and devastating losses. Climate change, coffee rust disease, and more have already caused devastation to many coffee-growing regions. 

Something to think about while sipping your spiced latte over the holiday season.

Photo Elena Shamis, Spill the Beans, gestalten 2021

What’s so good about this?

Spill the Beans (gestalten, 2021) is one for hipster barista wannabes, armchair travellers, curious foodies and cafe-hoppers. This java journey demonstrates that there’s a vast world of coffee beyond the ubiquitous flat white.

Meet the writer

A wise-cracking detective somewhere in the multiverse, Lisa Goldapple is the brain behind the world of TOPIA, She might not behave as good as gold, but thinks good is golden. To understand how TOPIA came about, read Mind Blown: “If life splinters and you hallucinate triangles, make a kaleidoscope.”

Follow @lisagoldapple/@lisagoldapple.

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