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A Cup of Java    by Gabriella Teggia & Mark Hanusz order for
Cup of Java
by Gabriella Teggia
Order:  USA  Can
Tuttle, 2004 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This softcover, full of lush color photos, gives us historical and other background information on what goes into the roasting, brewing, and enjoyment of A Cup of Java. The authors tell us that coffee in Indonesia 'is an integral element in the daily rituals of millions of people', and open on the introduction of Javanese culture and coffee to N. America at an 1893 Exhibition in Chicago.

We learn that the first coffee was drunk by a 15th century Ethiopian monk, to help him stay awake for evening prayers. The Dutch brought coffee to Java after smuggling Arabian seedlings and nurturing them at the Amsterdam Botanical Garden. The Javanese people were forced to cultivate cash crops (including coffee) instead of food crops, resulting in famine in the mid 1800s. Later, 'rust disease' caused devastating coffee crop blights and necessitated switching to more robust varieties.

As well as the history of coffee in Java, the book presents the Losari Coffee Plantation - Resort and Spa - in mountainous terrain, surrounded by eight volcanoes. The location seems superb. We also learn about a Trappist monastery located on a coffee plantation in central Java (more wide awake monks!) The science of roasting is explained briefly and mention given to the main Indonesian coffee brands and the families who ran the companies and roasted the beans through the years. One salutory story tells of the impact of advertising, packaging and branding on consumers unaccustomed to them.

Uses of coffee in Java are described, from offerings to the gods to drinking at community meetings. Every Javanese New Year, coffee is fed to a sacred buffalo (does he dread or anticipate the event for the rest of the year?) Some Javanese spice their coffee with salt, and there are mediums who eat coffee leaves to induce a mystical trance. Other interesting factoids include its use as a disinfectant, an insecticide, and in hair dye.

Sit down with a cup of java, and enjoy this book. Though a little disjointed in style, it's informative, and might just tempt you to take a trip to Indonesia to see how coffee gets from 'coffee cherries' to beans to brew for yourself.

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