Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT From Lime Street To Yirgacheffe @ScreamingMagpie #coffee #bookreview

Today’s team review comes from Suraya, find her at

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Suraya chose to read and review From Lime Street To Yirgacheffe by Robert Leigh

Review for

From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe

By Robert Leigh


Here’s a fact about coffee. Starbucks sells 3,861,778,846 cups per year. Consider all the other companies that sell coffee and that is an extraordinary amount of coffee circulating in the world economy. Here are a couple more statistics. Finland tops the coffee consumption chart at 9.6 kg per capita per year and Americans average almost one cup a day, slightly less than New Zealand.

So if you, like me, drink coffee and have never given much thought to the journey it has made from plantation to your cup this is the book for you and shame on you (and me) for taking such an important commodity for granted.

Robert Leigh, author of From Lime Street to Yigacheffe is subtitled, ‘a true story of sorts’.

It was definitely more an account of a trip to Ethiopia to follow the coffee trail than fiction so I would say it is a true story rather than one ‘of sorts’. It read more like a travelogue with commentary about the social story behind coffee’s journey from plantation to cup. He may have qualified his story in order to duck around some of his social and political commentary. There was not much political comment but there was a considerable amount about social conditions in Ethiopia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with Robert and his host through Ethiopia to the coffee plantations and processing factories. What really amazed me was the amount of work done by hand, not mechanised. He is somewhat dismayed by the young people working long days at this gruelling, mind numbing, processing work.

At some point in the process, each seed is graded by hand. Yes, Robert very early in his account points out that what we call beans are in fact ‘seeds’.

One of the things about this book that I thoroughly enjoyed were the descriptions of the Ethiopian landscape, the people’s social life and even that they operate to a calendar with 13 months in the year.

It was a journey into a way of life where rich and poor sit side by side.

This quote captures that: “The dark may have dampened detail, but the juxtaposition of rich and poor was still clear – the single light hanging above the corrugated door of the shanty, the shanty drowned in the light of the hotel or the apartment block looming above.” (108)

Our daily cups of coffee make many people wealthy. However, if we go to the source there is a lot we could do to improve the lot of the grower who feeds our addiction.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable insight into the life of the coffee seed.

4.5 stars

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