Black Coffee

This is a fascinating 3-part PBS documentary that tells the story of coffee -- its history, traditions, politics and economics. We're presenting this one a little differently -- all three one-hour programs are in this page, so you can either watch them one after the other, or watch one and come back later to watch more.

Black Coffee, Part 1: The Irresistible Bean

This first hour explores coffee's origins in Ethiopia and its triumphant spread over five Continents, sparking revolution, controversy, creativity, business and slavery along the way. The first coffeehouse traditions, which began on dirt floors and eventually developed into more refined Arabic home versions, led to the European cafes that were the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment, and played a great role in historical events, including the French and American Revolutions.

Black Coffee, Part 2: Gold in Your Cup

This second hour explains the economics of coffee, and how coffee's 19th century stranglehold on Brazil and Central America  led to coffee barons, the subjugation of Indians and Africans, the destruction of rainforests and, ironically, the evolution of both democracy and dictatorships.

Black Coffee, Part 3: The Perfect Cup

The Perfect Cup heralds what some coffee experts have called "the romantic age of coffee." North Americans rediscovered what their Europeans counterparts have known all along: coffee is better when it's quality coffee, and the best place to drink it is in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the cafe. A quirky collection of entrepreneurs emerged from the '70s to create mega-chains like Starbucks and Second Cup in the '80s, while the search for better coffee and a more equitable distribution system has led to initiatives like Fair Trade and coops.