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KEEN BEAN: Coffee historian from Berkhamsted shares his fascination with the drink

 Published on: 3rd December 2023   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

A Berkhamsted resident and coffee historian has spoken of how he came to be one of the world’s leading experts on the popular beverage.

Jonathan Morris is director of Research Culture and Environment at the University of Hertfordshire, where he is also a research professor in Modern History.

After completing an undergraduate degree in History at Cambridge, Jonathan went on to do a PhD in Italian History at the University of Cambridge. He spent much of his time studying in Italy, including Milan, Bologna and Rome.

Prior to this, Jonathan was a tea drinker who didn’t like coffee and, while overseas, relied on his mum sending him tea supplies from the UK. It was in Italy that Jonathan discovered an interest in coffee.

He said: “While in Italy, I had to learn Italian and come to understand the culture. While doing this, I spent a great deal of time in coffee shops. I loved the lifestyle around coffee and grew to enjoy the drink too.”

After finishing his PhD, Jonathan went on to become a reader in European Modern History at University College London. Then came an offer of a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council in 2004 to conduct a research project into the history of coffee at the University of Hertfordshire.

After taking up the offer, Jonathan moved from London to Berkhamsted and began focusing on his new project.

He said: “I went from being a historian of Italy with an interest in coffee to a historian of coffee with an interest in Italy.”

Jonathan’s project developed into the book The Cappuccino Conquests: A Transnational History of Italian Coffee, tracing the history of coffee from the evolution of espresso in the 1900s through to the global popularity of cappuccino and latte today.

He also launched the podcast A History of Coffee during lockdown.

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