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Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, page 1

 

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
 



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Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  PROLOGUE

  Introduction

  INTRODUCTION

  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

  Brazil’s Fazendas

  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

  Vastatrix Attacks

  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

  Coffee-Sugar Cease-Fire

  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

  Brand Proliferation

  A & P Grinds Its Own

  The Premium Peddlers

  The Institutional Niche

  Sexy Coffee?

  Hills Brothers Fills a Vacuum

  MJB: Why?

  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

  Regular Robusta

  The Chock-Full Miracle

  The Coffeehouse: A Saving Grace

  London Espresso

  European Coffee in the Fifties

  Japan Discovers Coffee

  Googie Coffee

  In Denial

  Scared into Agreement

  Stumbling Toward Ratification

  Boomer Bust

  Merger Mania

  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

  Zabar’s Beans

  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

  Specialty Proliferates

  Mrs. Olson Slugs It Out with Aunt Cora

  Chapter 16 - The Black Frost
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  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

  Latte Land

  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

  Rock-Star Baristas

  The Rape of the SCAA

  The Battle over Coffee’s Soul

  Techno-Coffee

  The Flattening of the Coffee World

  The Threat of Global Warming

  Coffee Kids and Other Ways to Help

  Mending the Heart with Organic

  Coffee Ecotourism

  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

  Acknowledgements

  APPENDIX - How to Brew the Perfect Cup

  NOTES ON SOURCES

  LIST OF INTERVIEWS

  ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

  INDEX

  Copyright Page

  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)

  PROLOGUE

  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
p on these mountainsides. The workers are in many ways more content and fulfilled than their counterparts in the United States. They have a strong sense of tradition and family life.

  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.

  INTRODUCTION

  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.

 
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