The recent explosion of the popularity of coffee houses in the United States coincides with a swelling number of monographs on the history of coffee in Latin America. However, these studies are less motivated by the faddishness of the Starbucks Revolution than by concerns about the fate of peasant producers, particularly in Central America. Unlike most coffee sippers who care only about the brew, scholars who study the history of coffee are more concerned with the local social, cultural, and economic impact of its cultivation; the arabica itself is often almost incidental.

In the last decade a spate of excellent historical monographs, often influenced by anthropology, have deconstructed earlier conventional wisdoms, models, and categories through detailed local studies. Many of these works raise several new and important questions and provide insights principally in social and cultural history. More important, several scholars have used...

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