An interview with James Hoffmann: turning a hit coffee blog into a book

By   Hannah Bickerton 3 min read

James Hoffmann is the author of The Best of Jimseven 2004 – 2015 and The World Atlas of Coffee.

The Best of Jimseven is a compilation of James’ blog posts about coffee and the coffee industry. James is also the co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters and World Barista Champion. If you don’t already have a cup of coffee, we suggest you get one now – you’ll certainly want one by the end of this Q&A!

Image result for James Hoffmann1. What inspired you to create a compilation book from your blog about coffee?

I’d started writing online as a way to share what I was learning in the industry, and when I hit 10 years I realised that I had created hundreds of posts, and within all of it there was probably a narrative and collection of the best that would be valuable if arranged and brought together in a book.

I think people read books differently to how they read online, and people wouldn’t want to navigate through hundreds of web pages – but the experience of sitting and reading would be much more enjoyable. I love books, well-made books. and the idea of creating a very limited run to mark a milestone also appealed to me.

2. The Best of Jimseven is your second book after The World Atlas of Coffee. Was it important for you to have greater creative access control over the process for such a personal project?

The World Atlas of Coffee was written for a very different audience, a much wider audience than I’d written for previously. Knowing my audience meant that I wanted to create something just for them, and that meant taking a lot more control. I think publishers can bring access to a wider audience, but when you have an audience and a community I think there are other ways of creating a book you’re proud of.

3. What was your experience of crowdfunding and what advice would you give to someone considering crowdfunding a book?
Crowdfunding was a fun experience. The advice I got is that it is important to meet your stated goal quickly. Campaigns that don’t get to their goal quickly rarely ever get there. People like to feel like they’re backing a winning campaign and so I set my target lower than I actually needed, but quickly hit my target and was able to take that momentum up to where I really needed it to go.

4. As an expert on the coffee industry, what would you say caused the global boom in specialty coffee we have seen over the last decade?
I think this is a great question. We’ve seen a boom in a number of industries people describe as craft, coupled with a boom in restaurants and food businesses. I think people found it easy to connect with the transparency and the stories of where their food and drink was coming from. I think we were probably bored of chains dominating retail, and every high street looking the same. It also helped that this new wave of coffee tasted much better too! I think there are a tonne of varied and complex factors, and I think coffee ended up as a poster child for this movement

5. What are your favourite books about coffee?
The first book I read on coffee kind of got me hooked. It is travel writing really, The Devil’s Cup by Stewart Lee Allen traces coffee consumption from Ethiopia as it spread around the world. Merry White’s Coffee Life in Japan is a great examination of how coffee and culture intertwine. Black Gold by Antony Wild has proved invaluable over the years, well researched and written (though somewhat trapped in a time when Fair Trade was a more powerful and necessary movement than it is now).

The Best of Jimseven 2004 – 2015 is available now through the jimseven shop and many other shops and websites.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.