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That cup of coffee you sip at your breakfast table, desk, or cafe comes
from far away. It was grown in Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, the Ivory Coast,
01 one of a hundred other coffee-producing lands on five continents. It is
a palpable and long-standing manifestation of globalization. For 500 years
coffee has been grown in tropical countries for consumption in temper-
ate regions, linking peoples of different lands and continents by trade,
investment, immigration, conquest, and cultural and religious diffusion.
There is a world of history in your cup.
(Topik and Clarence-Smith 2003: I)

For many of us, the study of history appears to be unconnected to the experi-
ences and pressures of our lives. It can be easy to ignore that many of the
ideas, spatial arrangements (roads, buildings, cities), and material items in our
daily existence reveal the actions, inventions, and convictions of people who
carne before us. The coffee we drink today carries genetic traces of the first
beans harvested and consumed, even if we are not exactly sure where or when
that happened. Coffee was among the first commodities produced not simply
for household consumption, but for exchange. How did this happen? As we
explore the early history of coffee, we begin to see that the historical spread of
coffee is intimately linked with the development of the global markets and
international relationships that we know as the modern world system. The pat-
terns of trade, interchange of ideas, and human migrations (forced and volun-
tary) that began to emerge over 500 years ago laid the foundation for the
evolving interconnections, tensions, and contradictions of today's world. Not
only was coffee part of this process; in many cases, desires to expand and con-
trol coffee production and trade were primary motivations.

Early Uses and Records of Coffee
Coffee's early history is shrouded in uncertainties. We are not sure when
people began to consume coffee; we are not even sure where it first happened.


and traders had begun carrying it to Europe. Spain financed Columbus' 1492 voyage in hopes of finding a shorter way to India. and gold. As we know well. Europeans depended on long. The first people to use coffee may have been the ancestors of the warlike Oromo people. calorically dense food balls. instead discovering a "New World" of unimagined peoples. In 1537. It spread. who lived on the southern borders of Abyssinia (today's Ethiopia) (Pritchard 1855). where undomesticated coffee varieties still grow wild. cheaper route set the stage for the evolution of new trade networks. The Sufis quickly adopted coffee because it helped them stay alert during their nighttime devotions. coffee originated somewhere in or near present-day Ethiopia. As Ethiopia's coffee production fell.22/ Ethnographies for a Global Century Most likely. overland routes to bring spices and valued goods from Asia. . Coffee seeds had to be boiled or partially roasted to render them sterile before leav- ing the country. and gained control of the coffee grown in mountain villages. or was carried. coffee had become part of life in Arab society. The Ottoman Turks tried to protect their monopolistic power over the coffee trade by prohibiting the export of living plants and fertile seeds. The Yemeni city of Mocha emerged as the predominant port of the Middle East as it sold coffee to increasingly interested Muslim and Christian societies. across the narrow Red Sea to Yemen. According to early European travelers. who had dominated coffee production up to that point. Early Struggles to Monopolize Production and Trade Until the end of the fifteenth century. and access to valuable products. power. From Yemen. fought to increase their land and influence. Europeans were not alone in seeking to extend their influence. Coffee drinking was introduced to the Islamic world in Yemen by a member of the Sufi order. coffee spread throughout the Arab world. Thus coffee became a profitable commodity in the Middle East before Holland and Britain became major seafaring powers (Topik and Clarence-Smith 2003). By the middle of the sixteenth century. the expansionist Oromo people of North Africa invaded Ethiopia and. Maintaining a monopoly nonetheless proved impossible. and sugar fell to Vasco Da Gama. could not meet traders' demands in the midst of war. The honor of finding a sea route to India and the Far East's precious spices. most likely in the latter half of the fifteenth century (Hattox 1985). They conquered Yemen in 1536. tea. In the Middle East. Ottoman Turks in Yemen took over as the world's coffee suppli- ers. goods. the Oromo ground the coffee cherry and bean together with animal fat to create long-lasting. who found his way around Cape Horn in 1498. pos- sibly energized by coffee food balls. Ethiopian coffee producers. Coffee was traded over land by camel routes throughout the Ottoman Empire. The desires of European upper classes to find a quicker. Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries.

a Muslim pilgrirn visiting Yemen. The Portuguese estab- lished plantations in Angola. European governments looked to colonies in Africa to provide coffee for growing consumer demand. Timor. Similarly. skullduggery. while the Belgians found spots suitable for coffee in the Congo. where it was cultivated in a greenhouse. Thereafter coffee became Java's main export crop. managed to evade the Ottoman's export ban on fertile coffee seeds by taping several to his stomach and carrying them back horne to India. The early history of cof- fee's spread thus involved thievery. and 'Java" became inextricably linked to the drink. but their quality was considered inferior to the imported plants of Mocha origin. From there. The French East India Company brought coffee to the island of Reunion (formerly the Isle of Bourbon) off the coast of Madagascar in 1715 (Ukers 1935). Baba Budan planted the seeds success- fully in the mountains of Mysora in southern India. and Italians encouraged coffee production in Eritrea. The Dutch became early lead- ers in coffee propagation by establishing colonial plantations throughout their Asian colonies. Some time between 1600 and 1695. it granted land concessions specifically for coffee production and required that each concessionaire plant at least ten trees for each worker. The Germans spread coffee to Cameroon. and Rhode- sia (Zimbabwe). and intentions to gain by appropriating the plant from its origins. The French planted coffee in the Ivory Coast. The first plantings on Java failed due to earthquakes and flooding. local peoples had developed successful smallholder coffee production using native varieties before British and Germans extended their colonial reach into the region. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. and Bali. The British expanded coffee planting in Kenya. Topik and Clarence-Smith 2(03). where they prevented native inhabitants from producing coffee to ensure that British settlers would dominate coffee production. In 1616. Weinberg and Bealer 2(02). Uganda. depending on the source. creating large plantations dependent on slave labor. and in 1688 or 1696. The . producers in Ethiopia's remote highlands continued to grow coffee by traditional means in small plantations. The Dutch first transplanted seedlings grown in Amsterdam to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1658. India. Colonial administrations chose to protect the indigenous smallholder system rather than risk its disruption by allowing European settlers to take over coffee production (Curtis 2003. The company governed the island until 1758. they planted coffee onJava (Ukers 1935. and new plants were brought from Malabar. In Tanganyika (Tanzania). Tucker/23 Pilgrims and Colonial Powers Spread Coffee in Asia and Africa Tradition holds that Baba Budan. including Sumatra. The island had wild coffee plants. a Dutch adventurer smuggled a coffee plant from the port of Aden to Amsterdam. Muslim pil- grims probably carried coffee to the East Indies.

The popular version of his exploits holds that he was aided in obtaining coffee seedlings by a French noblewoman. because he left letters documenting his efforts. colonial governments chose to support large plantations and used force to obtain labor. Households with diversified crop systems had greater resilience to sur- vive market fluctuations. He smuggled a coffee plant to his post in Mar- tinique from Paris in 1720 or 1723. For the rest of Africa's coffee-growing areas. Coffee was not intro- . His part in spreading coffee is better known than most. In a similar time frame. Upon arriving in Martinique. and that it took great effort to keep one plant alive during the Atlantic crossing. tried to steal the plant. an officer in the French Navy. de Clieu placed the surviving seedling in fertile soil and posted a 24-hour guard. The passengers had to survive on severely limited water rations. Louis XIV of France did not take much interest in coffee (unlike his descendants). decided to introduce coffee to the French West Indies without official approval. Caribbean planters soon began to compete with coffee producers from the East Indies. Curiously. with some exceptions. This single coffee plant has been said to be the ancestor of most of the coffee plants grown in the Caribbean and Central America (Ukers 1935). and water supplies were thrown overboard to keep the ship afloat. but he did note that he had assistance in France. That detail does not appear in de Clieus writings. During the voyage the ship suffered damage. Colonial policies to support smallholder production or coerce labor for coffee plantations created patterns of labor relations and land tenure that underlie the current social tensions and experiences of inequality in present-day Africa. Ajealous passenger. and the Dutch had apparently introduced coffee to Surinam in 1718. and de Clieu nurtured the plant for a month with a portion of his ration. some- times identified as a Dutch spy. That belief overlooks that coffee had already been planted on the island of Hispani- ola in 1715. Captain Gabriel de Clieu. Portuguese entrepreneurs smuggled coffee to Brazil in 1727. while the British planted coffee in Jamaica in 1730. the introduction of coffee and sugar into the Caribbean involved international conspiracies and competition to expand coffee production. Coffee Comes to the Americas While coffee spread in Southeast Asia and Africa.24/ Ethnographies for a Global Century system depended heavily on slave labor (Campbell 2003). In much of eastern and southern Africa. and smallholders using intensive methods usually produced higher-quality coffee than large plantations dependent on coerced labor (Curtis 2003). Europe's expansionist gov- ernments and ambitious individuals looked to the New World to further expand coffee production. colonial governments allowed Africans to produce coffee independently because smallholder production presented clear advan- tages. and managed to tear off a branch. began to sink.

Three wars related to their trade rivalry occurred between 1652 and 1674. but as coffee spread globally. By the 1800s. A class of elite coffee growers emerged in conjunction with large plantations and colonial administrations. New varieties emerged through natural mutations and human selection. Colonialism. France. Unfortunately. and owners resorted to legal and extralegal means to obtain cheap labor. Dutch leadership waned after 1700. The Dutch East India Company dissolved in 1795. people chose seeds for specific qualities and suitability to local climates. who gained control of extensive plantations in the West Indies. the owners relied on slavery or forced labor. Slavery. and its production required inexpensive manual labor. Wherever early colonial coffee production depended on large plantations. while coffee buyers. the Dutch lost their fourth war with the British. especially Britain. and Holland. is inseparable from the growth of coffee production in tropical nations around the world. where small producers grew most of the coffee. The British took Ceylon from the Dutch in 1796. and Forced Labor The expansion of Europe's colonial powers. coffee plantations around the world encom- passed numerous varieties that differed from the first coffee plants (Topik 2003). traders. By contrast. The expansion of coffee in the 1600s occurred as the Dutch and British competed to dominate coffee and tea trade through their respective East India Companies. and established large plantations operated by British . In the East Indies. The myth endures of a single ancestral line of coffee propagation. Tucker/25 duced to Mexico and Central America until the nineteenth century. and the British East India Company became the world's foremost trading power of the era. and were unable to recuperate. In 1784. smallholder producers generally had little access to political arenas. and often became a powerful interest group that shaped regional policies and social relationships among different economic classes and ethnic groups. For example. The French and British. they exercised some independence. they responded eagerly to British and American offers of cash for coffee. the Dutch required coffee production of its subjects and forced local leaders into con- tracts to supply coffee at a set price (Fernando 2003). resorted to slaves brought from Africa who labored in coffee and sugarcane plantations in unimaginably inhumane conditions. Large plantations needed many laborers at low cost. peasant producers in Sumatra were freer from Dutch demands and made their own choices. entrepreneurs. Coffee went hand in hand with colonialism. and colonial authorities often had greater possibilities of influencing policies in their own favor. but it became a profitable crop soon after plantations were established.

had strong. which trace to the historical division between the imperial nations and the colonized regions. Core or "center" areas. initially maintained relative isolation from the emerging economic system (Wallerstein 1980). By the twentieth century. at first Britain. The north-south divi- sion aligns roughly with the distinction between the world's most advantaged and least advantaged economies. centralized governments and benefited the most from trade relationships. known as external areas. Econ- omists Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer carne separately to the observation that persistent economic inequities traced to structural discrepancies in trade. and coffee-producing regions lie in the south. British landlords deducted wages for transportation. lodging. France. They carne to dominate the global economy between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries by managing the acquisition and transportation of valuable raw goods. Although the laborers ostensibly received payment. they sought economic remedies to restructure global trade to reduce inequities and alleviate poverty (Toye and Toye 2003). and Holland. The Modem World System Emerges Political intrigues and conflicts over the control of coffee production and trade contributed to the development of the global economic system that con- tinues to evolve today.26/ Ethnographies for a Global Century owners and officials. and were compelled to provide raw goods at low prices to the core regions. recognized that as the economic system . including Immanuel Wallerstein and Peter Worsley. and processing them into refined or manufactured products. Their ideas became the foundation for depend- ency theory and its kin. world systems theory. Some parts of the world. World systems theorists. the differences between the wealthier and more impoverished parts of the world appeared to be increasing. laborers became indebted and served essentially as slaves (Kurian 2003). and food. who depended on coerced labor from southern India. The semi-periphery included regions endeavoring to increase their presence in trade between core and periphery areas. however. The regions of the economic "periphery" lacked strong govern- ments. Rather than leaving for home with earnings. Andre Gunder Frank (1966) and Celso Furtado (1976) examined Latin America's economic strug- gles and saw the inequities as entrenched processes of "underdevelopment" that resisted transformation. Both approaches agreed that the development of global trade had fostered an inequitable economic system. The major coffee-consuming nations lie north of the equator. Western thinking predicted that economic development would reach all nations and eventually increase general welfare to create a more equitable world. but did not rival the economic power of the core.

As even this brief recounting of coffee's spread indicates. or unable to change. Martinique. dependency per- spectives presented European societies and their people as progressive and assertive (as well as exploitative) actors. such as the Dutch East Indies. colonization. a noted anthropologist. static. Rather. The diversity of crops provided a hedge against coffee price vola- tility and helped protect the coffee from pests and diseases that attack monocrop plantations. who depended on slaves and coerced labor. the evolution of international trade created three "worlds"-first. In some places-Jamaica. Wallerstein's world systems theory saw the global economic system as an integrating whole. but Worsley argued that the emergence of global economic relationships did not create an integ- rated system. He used historical accounts to show that people around the world often willingly participated in new opportunities created by trade. but also local con- ditions. and external linkages shaped their options (Worsley 1990). People forced to labor against their will tend to resist and perform as little work as possible. Eric Wolf (1982). which helps to explain the inefficiency and low productivity associ- ated with early coffee production (Topik 2003). The emergence of global economic inequities through the evolution of trading patterns has been well supported by examining the history of trade. Their dependency kept them from overcoming social problems and strengthening their economies. internal conditions. Yet dependency and world systems theories share a common flaw of failing to acknowledge the variability in local and regional experiences. while other societies appeared passive. The example of Sumatran smallholder coffee producers provides a case in point. Similar to other smallholder producers who adopted coffee vol- untarily. second. and third worlds-whose diverse cultures. Tucker /27 evolved new core areas emerged. among others-colo- nial policies granted large landholdings to European settlers. In other locations. Dependency theorists argued that these inequities produced and propa- gated paternalistic (dependent) relationships. Moreover. and external areas become integrated into global economic relationships. they developed agroforestry systems that combined coffee with other useful crops. they participated willingly in coffee production and trade to gain income. and economic processes (Pomeranz and Topik 2006). . people were compelled to produce coffee as tribute or to pay taxes. Ceylon. pointed out that these theories overlooked or underestimated the efforts of ordinary people in the "periph- ery" to shape their own lives and assert their interests. in which less-developed coun- tries carne to rely on dominant countries for trade and political patronage. individual actions and choices reflect not only global incentives for coffee expansion. and at the same time attempted to resist dornination.

28/ Ethnographies for a Global Century Early Connections in an Emerging Global System Coffee was a locus of early trade relations and colonial expansion. and trade arrangements systematically favor manufacturing nations and disadvantage nations that pro- duce raw materials. and Latin America often disrupted traditional cultures and life- ways. The growth of dependency was multifaceted. Europe's desire for coffee and other tropical goods transformed the lives of the people under colonial rule. and dislocated large numbers of people from their homes. The rapid spread of coffee at the hands of colonial governments and entrepreneurs in Asia. A helpful concept is that of path depend- ence. It recognizes that patterns in sociopolitical relationships tend to be reinforced and renewed through time (North 1990). . Moreover. Power may shift among different interest groups. but the institutions and traditions that undermine or recognize social justice. in which political. Despite the patterns of inequitable relationships that formed between Europe (and later North America) and its colonies. peoples. exposure to non-European cultures. human rights. the examination of specific his- tories shows that local and regional circumstances led to variations in the gen- eral pattern (Fridell 2007). the societies of Europe and North America became dependent in another way: they became dependent on coffee. including coffee. The unequal relationships within and between peoples that were forged in the early days of European exploration and colonization formed relationships that characterize the modern world system. Africa. and goods changed European societies. and inequity occurred in European societies as well. and access to resources resist change. but at the same time. economic. The relationships of trade and colonization have powerful influences but are played out in diverse ways on the ground.