Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, page 1
Table of Contents
PART ONE - SEEDS OF CONQUEST
Chapter 1 - Coffee Colonizes the World
Coffee Goes Arab
Smugglers, New Cultivation, and Arrival in the Western World
Kolschitzky and Camel Fodder
Lovelier Than a Thousand Kisses
The British Coffee Invasion
The Legacy of the Boston Tea Party
Coffee Goes Latin
Coffee and the Industrial Revolution
Of Sugar, Coffee, and Slaves
Napoleon’s System: Paving the Way for Modernity
Chapter 2 - The Coffee Kingdoms
War Against the Land
How to Grow and Harvest Brazilian Coffee
From Slaves to Colonos
The Brazilian Coffee Legacy
Guatemala and Neighbors: Forced Labor, Bloody Coffee
Guatemala—A Penal Colony?
The German Invasion
How to Grow and Harvest Coffee in Guatemala
Women and Children as Laborers
Stealing the Land in Mexico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua
Coffee in Costa Rica: A Democratic Influence?
Indonesians, Coolies, and Other Coffee Laborers
The American Thirst
Chapter 3 - The American Drink
Home Roasting, Brewing, and Ruination
The Antebellum Coffee Industry
The Union (and Coffee) Forever
Jabez Burns, Inventor
Arbuckles’ Ariosa: The People’s Coffee
Mr. Chase Meets Mr. Sanborn
Jim Folger and Gold Rush Coffee
Jabez Burns, Editor: Keeping Coffee and Women in Their Place
The Indispensable Beverage
Chapter 4 - The Great Coffee Wars of the Gilded Age
A Coffee Suicide?
Creating the Coffee Exchange: No Panacea
The Most Speculative Business in the World
The Great Coffee-Sugar War
Cutting the Thing Wide Open
The Arbuckle Signatures
Chapter 5 - Hermann Sielcken and Brazilian Valorization
The First International Coffee Conference
São Paulo Goes It Alone
Hermann Sielcken to the Rescue
The United States Howls over Coffee Prices
Sielcken Snaps His Fingers
The Lawsuit Against Sielcken
Hermann Sielcken’s Final Years
The Caffeine Kicker
Chapter 6 - The Drug Drink
Mind Cure and Postum
Post’s Fierce Attacks
Tapping the Paranoia
Monk’s Brew and Other Ploys
The Coffee Merchants React
The Collier’s Libel Flap
Dr. Wiley’s Ambivalence
The Birth of Decaf
Post’s Last Act
PART TWO - CANNING THE BUZZ
Chapter 7 - Growing Pains
A & P Grinds Its Own
The Premium Peddlers
The Institutional Niche
Hills Brothers Fills a Vacuum
The Great San Francisco Earthquake
Chase & Sanborn: Tally-Ho
Joel Cheek Creates Maxwell House
Gift, Guest, or Yuban?
The (Slow) Rise of Women
Chapter 8 - Making the World Safe for Coffee
Coffee and the Doughboy
A Cup of George for the Boys
Meanwhile, Back on the Fazenda . . .
Colombia Comes of Age
Robusta or Bust
Between Cancer and Capricorn
Chapter 9 - Selling an Image in the Jazz Age
Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties
The Coffeehouse Resurgence
Eight O’Clock Rocks and Jewel Shines
The West Coast Brands Move East
The Decline of Arbuckles’
The Corporate Monsters Swallow Coffee
The Great Stock Market-Coffee Crash
Chapter 10 - Burning Beans, Starving Campesinos
The Coffee Inferno
Dictators and Massacres in Central America
Brazil Opens the Floodgates
Chapter 11 - Showboating the Depression
Glued to Their Radios
Benton & Bowles Survive the Crash
Rancid Oils and Coffee Nerves
All Aboard for the Maxwell House Show Boat
Arbuckles’ and MacDougall Fade Away
Lobbing Coffee Hand Grenades in Chicago
Getting the Gong and Trouble in Eden
Coffee Brutes and Bruises
For Better, For Worse
Hammering the Chains
The European Coffee Scene
The World of the Future
Chapter 12 - Cuppa Joe
Goose-stepping in Guatemala
Hammering Out a Coffee Agreement
1941: Surviving the First Quota Year
Coffee Goes to War—Again
Coffee at the Front
Denazifying Latin America
The U.S. Industry Survives the War
Good Neighbors No Longer
The Legacy of World War II
PART THREE - BITTER BREWS
Chapter 13 - Coffee Witch Hunts and Instant Nongratification
Guy Gillette’s Coffee Witch Hunt
Instant, Quick, Efficient, Modern—and Awful
Invention of the Coffee Break
The Boob Tube
Price Wars, Coupons, and Fourteen-Ounce Pounds
Neglecting a Generation
The Land That Smelled Like Money
The Great Fourth of July Frost
A CIA Coup in Guatemala
Suicide in Brazil
Chapter 14 - Robusta Triumphant
Out of Africa
Hot Coffee, Cold War
The Chock-Full Miracle
The Coffeehouse: A Saving Grace
European Coffee in the Fifties
Japan Discovers Coffee
Scared into Agreement
Stumbling Toward Ratification
The Maxwell Housewife
The Decline of Hills Brothers
The Creation of Juan Valdez
In a Vortex
PART FOUR - ROMANCING THE BEAN
Chapter 15 - A Scattered Band of Fanatics
Mentors, Fathers, and Sons
Tourist Coffee and Other Problems
The Think Drink Thunks
The GI Coffeehouses
“Caution: Coffee May Be Hazardous to Health”
Gold Floats, Coffee Sinks
Coffee Inroads in Japan and Europe
The King of the Robustas and the Burundi Massacres
Starbucks: The Romantic Period
God’s Gift to Coffee
A Coffee Love Affair
The Ultimate Aesthete
Mrs. Olson Slugs It Out with Aunt Cora
Chapter 16 - The Black Frost
Machiavellian Market Manipulations
Riding the Bull Market to Millions
Hot Coffee (Stolen) and High Yield (Awful)
Specialty Reaches the Heartland
One Big Slaughterhouse
Repression and Revolution in Central America
El Gordo and the Bogotá Group
Grinding Out the Decade
Chapter 17 - The Specialty Revolution
Good Till the Last Drop Dead
Learning to Love Uncoffee
The Coffee Nonachievers
The Little Big Guys Struggle
Whole Beans and Gorgeous Women
Quotas and Quagmires
Guerrilla Wars, Coffee Disasters
Fair Trade Coffee
Blood in the Salvadoran Cups?
The Big Boys Try to Get Hip
Coffee and Cigarettes
The Collapse of the ICA
The Coca-Coffee Connection and a Black Harvest
Big Coffee: Ice Cold
Chapter 18 - The Starbucks Experience
Starbucks: The (Very) Public Years
Deflecting the Critics
A Maturing Market
Chapter 19 - Final Grounds
La Minita: A Coffee City-State
The Coffee Crisis
Fair Trade and Starbucks
Howard to the Rescue?
Who’s on Second?
The Third Wave
Cupping at Origin
The Rape of the SCAA
The Battle over Coffee’s Soul
The Flattening of the Coffee World
The Threat of Global Warming
Coffee Kids and Other Ways to Help
Mending the Heart with Organic
Befriending the Birds
Turf Battles over Politically Correct Coffee
A Troubled World
Coffee—Part of the Matrix
Caffeine, the Drug of Choice
Are You Addicted?
The Coffee Tour in Costa Rica
Winged for Posterity
APPENDIX - How to Brew the Perfect Cup
NOTES ON SOURCES
LIST OF INTERVIEWS
This detailed engraving was one of the first accurate portrayals of the exotic coffee plant, published in 1716 in Voyage de l’Arabie Heureuse
To the memories of Alfred Peet (1920-2007), coffee curmudgeon supreme, and Ernesto Illy (1925-2008), espresso master
The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.
—Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case (1995)
The smell of roasting coffee hit me like a waft of spice. . . . It was a smell halfway between mouth-watering and eye-watering, a smell as dark as burning pitch; a bitter, black, beguiling perfume that caught at the back of the throat, filling the nostrils and the brain. A man could become addicted to that smell, as quick as any opium.
—Anthony Capella, The Various Flavors of Coffee (2008)
The Oriflama Harvest
San Marcos region, Guatemala. Picking coffee berries (known as cherries) for the first time, I struggle to keep my balance on the precipitous hillside. My basket, or canasta, is tied around my waist. As Herman, my caporal (supervisor), requested, I try to pick only the rich red cherries, but sometimes I accidentally knock loose a green one. I’ll have to sort them later.
I pop the skin of a ripe coffee cherry open in my mouth and savor the sweet mucilage. It takes a bit of tongue work to get down to the tough-skinned parchment protecting each bean. Like peanuts, coffee beans usually grow in facing pairs. Spitting out the parchment, I finally get the two beans, which are covered by a diaphanous silver skin. In some cases where the soil lacks sufficient boron, I might have found only one bean, called a peaberry, considered by some to possess a slightly more concentrated taste. I spit out the seeds, too hard to chew.
I hear other harvesters—whole families of them—chatting and singing in Spanish. This is a happy time, when the year’s hard work of pruning, fertilizing, weeding, tending, and repairing roads and water channels comes down to ripe coffee. I sing a song with a few Spanish phrases: mi amor, mi corazón.
When I stop, I hear giggles and applause. Unwittingly, I have attracted a group of kids, who now wander off to resume picking or pestering their parents. Children begin helping with the harvest when they are seven or eight. Though many campesinos keep their children out of school at other times for other reasons, it’s no coincidence that school vacation in Guatemala coincides with the coffee harvest.
I am 4,500 feet above sea level on Oriflama, the coffee finca (plantation) owned by Betty Hannstein Adams. Betty’s grandfather, Bernhard Hannstein (“Don Bernardo”), arrived in Guatemala over a hundred years ago, one of many German immigrants who pioneered the country’s coffee production. Oriflama, which contains over four hundred acres, is half of the original farm, which was called La Paz.
Most of the coffee trees are caturra and catuai, hybrids that are easier to harvest because they are shorter and more compact than the older bourbon variety. Still, I have to bend some branches down to get at them. After half an hour I have picked half a canasta, about twelve pounds of cherries that, after processing to remove the pulp, mucilage, and parchment, will produce two pounds of green coffee beans. When roasted, they will lose as much as 20 percent more in weight. Still, I have picked enough to make several pots of fine coffee. I’m feeling pretty proud until Herman, who stands just over five feet and weighs a little over one hundred pounds, shows up with a full canasta and gently chides me for being so slow.
The farm is beautiful, covered with the green, glossy-leafed coffee trees, prehistoric tree ferns and Spanish daggers along the roadside (to prevent erosion), rolling hills, invisible harvesters calling, children laughing, birds chirruping, big shade trees dappling hillsides, springs and streams. As in other high-altitude coffee-growing areas, the temperature never strays far from 75°F.
In the distance I can see the volcano, Santa María, and the smoke from the smaller cone, Santiago, where in 1902 a side eruption exploded, burying Oriflama under a foot of ash and killing all the songbirds. “Oh God, what a sight,” wrote Betty’s grandmother, Ida Hannstein, soon after. “As far as the eye could see everything was blue and gray and dead, like a mammoth cemetery.”
It is difficult to imagine that scene now. The nitrogen-fixing shade trees—inga, poro, and others—along with the groves of cypresses and oaks and the macadamia trees grown to diversify output, provide a much-needed habitat for migratory birds. At breakfast I had melon, cream, and honey that came from the plantation; also black beans, rice, and of course, coffee.
By 4:00 P.M. the harvest day is over, and everyone brings bulging bags of coffee cherries to the beneficio (processing plant) to be weighed. In other parts of Guatemala, the Mayan Indians are the primary harvesters, but here they are local ladinos, whose blood combines an Indian and Spanish heritage. They are all very small, probably owing to their ancestors’ chronic malnutrition. Many wear secondhand American T-shirts that appear incongruous here, one from the Kennedy Space Center.
Tiny women carry amazingly large bags, twice their eighty-pound weight. Some of the women carry babies in slings around front. A good adult picker can harvest over two hundred pounds of cherries and earn $8 a day, more than twice the Guatemalan minimum daily wage.
In Guatemala, the contrast between poverty and wealth is stark. Land distribution is lopsided, and those who perform the most difficult labor do not reap the profits. Yet there is no quick fix to the inequities built into the economic system, nor any viable alternatives to coffee as a cro
As the workers bring in the harvest, I ponder the irony that, once processed, these beans will travel thousands of miles to give pleasure to people who enjoy a lifestyle beyond the imagination of these Guatemalan laborers. Yet it would be unfair to label one group “villains” and another “victims” in this drama. I realize that nothing about this story is going to be simple.
I donate my meager harvest to a kid and turn once again to look at the valley and volcano in the distance. Back in the United States, I have already begun to accumulate mounds of research material that threaten to swamp my small home office, where I will write this history of coffee. But now I am living it, and I can tell that this experience, this book, will challenge my preconceptions and, I hope, those of my readers.
Puddle Water or Panacea?
O Coffee! Thou dost dispel all care, thou are the object of desire to the scholar. This is the beverage of the friends of God.
—“In Praise of Coffee,” Arabic poem (1511)
[Why do our men] trifle away their time, scald their Chops, and spend their Money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty bitter stinking, nauseous Puddle water?
—Women’s Petition Against Coffee (1674)
It is only a berry, encasing a double-sided seed. It first grew on a shrub—or small tree, depending on your perspective or height—under the Ethiopian rain forest canopy, high on the mountainsides. The evergreen leaves form glossy ovals and, like the seeds, are laced with caffeine.
Yet coffee is big business, one of the world’s most valuable agricultural commodities, providing the largest jolt of the world’s most widely taken psychoactive drug. From its original African home, coffee propagation has spread in a girdle around the globe, taking over whole plains and mountainsides between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. In the form of a hot infusion of its ground, roasted seeds, coffee is consumed for its bittersweet bouquet, its mind-racing jump start, and social bonding. At various times it has been prescribed as an aphrodisiac, enema, nerve tonic, and life extender.
Coffee provides a livelihood (of sorts) for some 125 million human beings. It is an incredibly labor-intensive crop. Calloused palms plant the seeds, nurse the seedlings under a shade canopy, transplant them to mountainside ranks, prune and fertilize, spray for pests, irrigate, harvest, and lug two hundred-pound bags of coffee cherries. Laborers regulate the complicated process of removing the precious bean from its covering of pulp and mucilage. Then the beans must be spread to dry for several days (or heated in drums), the parchment and silver skin removed, and the resulting green beans bagged for shipment, roasting, grinding, and brewing around the world.