Coffee, Economics, and Politics in History
Author: Laura Date Posted:7 August 2013
We wake up in the morning, make a cup of coffee and go to work. If we’re lucky, we have a free Lavazza espresso machine and Bluepod coffee pods and can enjoy barista quality coffee at home for a fraction of the cost of a cappuccino at a local coffee house
However we make our coffee, we tend to take it for granted. It’s always there for us when we want it. A look at coffee’s rich and turbulent history tells how coffee conquered the world.
By most accounts, coffee got its start in Kaffa, an Ethiopian province, as early as the 14th century. There, the beans were consumed by slave labourers. By the 15th century, coffee beans began spreading throughout the Middle East via the port of Mocha. Knowing they were on to something good, the Arab authorities banned the export of fertile beans, but the clever Dutch got around this by taking live plants to the Netherlands and cultivating them in greenhouses.
Back in the Middle East, the first recorded coffee houses, called kaveh kanes, opened for business in Mecca. The idea caught hold and they spread throughout the Arab world until local authorities began to worry they were becoming places where politics were discussed too freely. Kaveh kanes were routinely shut down, only to reappear later when things cooled down. There was no stopping the spread of coffee culture.
By the end of the 17th century, the Dutch were growing coffee in India and in 1699, started a plantation on the island of Java. The Dutch quickly became Europe’s largest coffee supplier. Coffee’s main competitors at that time were hot chocolate and tea, but sales boomed in Italy, spreading quickly from Venice to the rest of Italy.
England is known as a nation of tea drinkers, but coffee has played an important part in that country’s history, too. In 1688, a man named Edward Lloyd opened a coffeehouse. In it, he sat down and worked, preparing lists of ships his well-heeled customers had insured. That was the beginning of Lloyd’s of London.
Lloyd’s of London isn’t the only financial institution that got its start in a coffeehouse. Across the Atlantic, coffee houses began springing up in New York, Boston and other growing American cities. A Boston coffee house, the Green Dragon, was where the Boston Tea Party was planned in 1773. In New York, the New York Stock Exchange got its start in a coffee house in the area of the city we call Wall Street.
The Dutch continued to look for places to grow coffee and found them in Central and South America. By the first half of the 19th century, Brazil had become the world’s largest coffee producer. So much coffee was being grown in Java, Brazil and elsewhere, the price of coffee plummeted, which only served to increase demand. By the 1890s, coffee prices reached an all-time high and plantations were established in many other countries, particularly Colombia. After a turbulent start hampered by internal strife, Colombian beans eventually became the favourite in the U.S.
Coffee has become an enormous part of the economies of dozens of developing countries over the past two centuries. Some of the world’s poorest countries rely on coffee for up to 50% of their yearly export earnings and millions of people depend on coffee cultivation for their livelihoods. Organizations like the Rainforest Alliance and initiatives like Lavazza’s Tierra project are helping to ensure that those who grow and harvest our coffee for us are not exploited as they have been in the past.
Coffee has emerged as the world’s favourite beverage, but its early competitors, tea and hot chocolate, are also favourites. Did you know that if you have a free Lavazza coffee machine from the Bluepod Coffee Company, you can also make tea and hot chocolate with it? Check out the range of tea and hot chocolate capsules and sachets on the Bluepod website next time you’re ready to place an order for Lavazza Blue coffee pods. If you haven’t learned about Bluepod’s amazing free coffee machine offer yet, go straight to the Bluepod homepage and find out more.
Source: International Coffee Organization, The Story of Coffee