3 Sentence Summary
“The Coffee Trader” is a thrilling historical novel set in Amsterdam in 1659. Author David Liss masterfully weaves a story around Miguel Lienzo, a Jewish merchant seeking to recover from financial ruin by trading a new commodity on the market – coffee. Through Lienzo’s journey, readers gain insight into the cultural and religious diversity of the city’s inhabitants.
Summary Read Time: Less than 4 minutes
Actual Book Length: 432
First Published in: 2003
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book The Coffee Trader:
Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew, escapes the clutches of the Inquisition and embarks on a new life as a trader in the vibrant heart of Amsterdam’s commercial center. The Amsterdam Exchange, the world’s pioneering commodities market, is a hotbed of risk, where fortunes are made and lost in the blink of an eye.
As our story begins, Miguel faces a significant loss in his sugar trade, leaving him concerned about settling his debts by month’s end. His friend Geertruid, a Dutch widow, presents him with an opportunity to trade in coffee, a novel drink made from coffee berries. Though hesitant, Miguel agrees to venture into this promising new market with her.
Amidst his financial struggles, Miguel finds shelter with his brother Daniel and his expectant wife, Hannah, who harbors secret feelings for him. Daniel is friendly with Solomon Parido, an influential member of the Ma’amad, the Jewish ruling council. Miguel, however, has a fractured relationship with Parido due to a broken engagement with his daughter.
Raised a Catholic, Hannah is persuaded by her maid Annetje to attend secret Catholic Masses. Although initially comforting, she becomes increasingly fearful of the consequences if her secret is uncovered. The Ma’amad is notorious for its strict enforcement of Jewish law, excommunicating those who dare to defy. Alonzo Alferonda, a man exiled permanently by the Jewish community, claims Parido unjustly cast him out. In a quest for revenge and profit, Alferonda covertly schemes to manipulate Miguel’s burgeoning coffee venture.
Unaware of Alferonda’s devious plotting, Miguel boldly ventures forward, encountering a myriad of challenges. Among them is Joachim Waagenaar, a hapless Dutch trader who holds Miguel responsible for his ill-fortune and consistently threatens him. Miguel’s own sibling, Daniel, attempts to deter him from entering the coffee trade. Parido extends a helping hand through a seemingly well-intended trading tip, yet Miguel remains distrustful, ultimately questioning everyone’s intentions, including his partner Geertruid.
As the chemistry between Miguel and Hannah grows, so does Hannah’s fascination with coffee. In an effort to deepen her bond with Miguel, she discloses her secret church visits. At first, Miguel reacts angrily but is unable to deny his affection for her.
On the day of the coffee trade at the exchange, Miguel bravely wagers against Parido and triumphs. Certain that Geertruid conspired against him, he devises a plan that results in her financial ruin. To his dismay, he later realizes that both Geertruid and Parido had been honest in their business interactions with him.
Hannah cunningly leads Daniel to believe that Miguel is the father of her unborn baby. Devastated, Daniel permits her to divorce him and marry Miguel. Despite feeling remorse for his treatment of Geertruid and Parido, Miguel finds happiness in his newfound business achievements, his union with Hannah, and their family.