If there’s only one book on your shelf about coffee, there’s no doubt in our mind which one it should be: The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffmann. Hoffmann, famously, is the co-owner of London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters and the 2007 World Barista Champion. His popular Youtube channel has changed the way we use our French press, helped us keep chaff off our counter, and given us some candid commentary on everything from “specialty” instant coffee to new products. Hoffmann’s groundbreaking book is now available in a second edition, which includes six new country profiles. Hoffmann was gracious enough to answer a few questions we had about the book.
First of all congratulations on the second edition of The World Atlas of Coffee. How long has the second edition been in the works?
In some ways work started on the second edition the moment the first was released. I kept a running file of people’s feedback, captured little tiny errors or things I wanted to improve. The edition was actually commission over 18 months ago. The nature of books like this – very heavily illustrated – is that they need to be wrapped up nearly six months before publication, so there’s weird period of nearly half a year after you’ve finished the work before you can really talk about it.
I remember you saying somewhere that the first edition was hard to research because a lack of reliable sources. With recent books like Coffee Atlas of Ethiopia or Where the Wild Coffee Grows, do you think that’s starting to change?
I think so, and while it may be frustrating that new information is coming out all the time and there are things I wish I could have included but couldn’t – I think the nature of coffee and an industry like this is that it is dynamic and that it moves quickly. It’s very excited that it seems to have reached a point where lots of people are now working on compiling better information and increasing the knowledge and transparency of the industry as a whole.
As proud owners of the first edition, what changes can we expect in the second edition?
The goal with a second edition is really to make sure things are current – so all the stats have been updated. In addition we were able to add six new producing countries (Haiti, DRC, Uganda, China, Thailand and the Philippines), as well as expand on coffee’s history in the first part of the book. If you’ve got a first edition then you don’t really need to “upgrade”, maybe the third edition will be that moment!
Did you learn anything that surprised you while researching the second edition? Any gross errors that needed to be corrected?
Thankfully there weren’t too many errors with the first one! There were little things I wanted to update in some of the histories. As for surprises – despite the increasing interest and work being done in so many countries – for the additional countries in this edition it was still a huge amount of work to try and find accurate information. That and how long coffee has been growing in China.
Do you think the demand for a second edition reveals a growing consumer interest in coffee? Or is the primary market for this book coffee professionals?
The one frustration I have is that I don’t really, really know who is buying the book. From Instagram (and I do love it when people tag me in images of the book!) it really does look like an even mix of professionals and people who just really enjoy coffee – which makes me incredibly happy. The boom in specialty coffee has created both lots of new customers and lots of new opportunities to work in speciality coffee – so I’ve benefitted greatly from the growth of both of those audiences.
What coffee have you been enjoying lately?
A coffee from Myanmar called Ywangang. Myanmar has appeared so quickly as a producer of specialty, and I wish I could have included it in the book but it really has happened that fast. It’s a surprisingly clean, soft and delicate coffee– plum-like and really sweet. I think a lot of people will have low expectations but it really is a surprise and a delight!