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Review: Dangerous Grounds

Coffee. That most domesticated of commodities, it still grows wild, in untamed and, yes, dangerous places. Travel Channel has recruited the best guide possible to take viewers into those mountains, past the armed checkpoints, ever higher in search of rare strains of the bean that fuels a $60 billion industry. His name is Todd Carmichael and he’s cofounder of the gourmet coffee supplier La Colombe Torrefaction. His bona fides as an adventurer include a world record for the fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole. He can haggle with farmers, fix a broken truck and read between the lines on a topographical map. His non-stop narration to “Hollywood,” the camera guy who chases after him, describes all the present dangers and fills us in on everything we don’t know about how coffee is grown, produced and distributed. The pilot takes us to Haiti, from the chaotic markets of Port-au-Prince up to the mountains, to find a centuries-old coffee strain— and a farmer who will dare sell to Carmichael directly, defying the local middlemen. Somehow, after maximum effort, a deal comes together. An exhausted Carmichael leaves Haiti with the coffee he needs, and the farmer gets the TVshow premium he deserves. The show ends at the La Colombe factory in Philadelphia, with Carmichael holding the roasted beans and declaring, “This is what we’ve been looking for. This is beautiful.” Later trips will be to Bolivia, Borneo, Madagascar and Cambodia.