Coffee Catches Fire - Episode Transcript

A hundred years ago one Brazilian man owned so many coffee trees he could fill every inch of a European country with them. But why does Brazil grow so much? And who is drinking these lakes of caffeine? In this third episode of A History of Coffee, Jonathan and James explore how industrialisation dramatically and permanently strips away Brazil’s forests, and why coffee becomes a part of the American dream.

James Harper: So Jonathan, here is a question for you. How large is Brazil?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Uh, very, very, very big

James Harper: I think a lot of people and especially me, maybe you as a European, you know, we really underestimate how large Brazil actually is.

Professor Jonathan Morris:I have no idea how to express it. In fact.

James Harper: So if you were to combine every single one of the countries that make up the European union, Brazil is twice the size of that.

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Professor Jonathan Morris: So you're saying that basically Brazil is twice the size of pretty much the European continent.

James Harper: Now get this done.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Go on

James Harper: Let's make a really crude assumption. Let's just assume that

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: half the country could actually grow coffee

Professor Jonathan Morris: seems plausible.

James Harper: So the potential that Brazil has for growing coffee is the equivalent of covering every square meter of the European union with coffee truth.

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Professor Jonathan Morris: Good grief

James Harper: if you live anywhere in Europe

Professor Jonathan Morris:yeah. you walk out your door and you're in the coffee plant. I mean, wow.

James Harper: It's just coffee trees. As far as the eye I could see Jonathan, of course that's just the thought experiment, but like how much coffee has Brazil actually grown over time?

Professor Jonathan Morris: The amazing thing about Brazil is just the fantastic increase in output.So 1871, 3 million Sacks, 30 years later, 1900 15 million sacks. Another 30 years later in 1930 twenty-five million sacks. Fast forward 90 years, 2020 last year, 69 million Sacks.

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris:So moves from thing, you know, a significant producer, but not by any means a dominant producer in the 1850s, and then bang! By the end of the century, Brazil, you know, it's just over everything absolutely dominant.

James Harper: So Jonathan, this is what we're going to explore in this episode. Why does Brazil and especially Brazil, grow so much coffee

Professor Jonathan Morris: You mean, is there an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, James

James Harper: as Frank Sinatra, one sang. And as we explore this question, we can touch on this really curious point in history where, you know, we're in a system of slavery, capitalism, and that transitions to post-slavery capitalism.What does that transition actually look like on the ground? Yeah. And the other side of the scale we're going to be exploring is, well, who on earth is drinking all this coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris: You know what James? Same people who are buying Frank Sinatra's records

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James Harper: I'm James Harper, the creator of filter stories, a coffee documentary podcast

Professor Jonathan Morris: And I'm Jonathan Morris, author of Coffee, a global history.

James Harper: And this is a history of coffee. A six episode series where we explore how he tiny psychoactive seed changed the world and shapes our lives today.

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James Harper: Let's start at the beginning. How does coffee get to Brazil?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Origin story for this one goes, that does a guy called Francesco Paletha and he becomes an intermediary in a dispute between Suriname at that time, Dutch, Guyana, and French Guyana at that time, next door to it, he's the mediator and they give him coffee and he heads down and he pants it in his native state of Pará.

James Harper: Interesting.

Professor Jonathan Morris: But when it becomes important is when it's taken out of Pará. And it goes down to Rio

James Harper: Interesting

Professor Jonathan Morris:And starts being planted around Rio.

James Harper: So what does Brazil look like before coffee arrives?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Most of it of course looks like untamed forest.

James Harper: Hm.

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James Harper: So a lot of Brazil before coffee gets there is just a huge chunk of land just covered in forest and birds and bugs and, you know, nature doing its thing.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's exactly right. Yes, there are some indigenous Brazilians within that, but it's uncultivated wild land

James Harper: Right.

James Harper: And so coffee arrives and you're saying that it eventually travels South and it gets to Sao Paulo.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: So geographically, like, picture that for me. Like where is that?

Professor Jonathan Morris:I'm going to apologize to any Brazilians listening, but if you want to kind of reduce Brazil to the shape of that big upside down triangle, then if you started shading in from the bottom of that upside down triangle, that's where most of the coffee is going to be.

James Harper: Okay.

James Harper: So let's zoom into Sao Paulo, zoom into that pointy part of the triangle. And I'm seeing miles and miles of forests, maybe a few kind of wooden hot settlements from colonizers. So tell me what happens on the ground to make coffee grow so quickly in Brazil?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Well, In the ground itself is very, very fertile. So you're probably seeing that rich Terra Roxa, the red clay soil, as you swooped down, what you're probably seeing, James is those firsts are on fire. People are cutting down the forest, burning off the trees, planting the coffee in the ashes.

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James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris:If you flew over it a few years later. You'd also see one other thing. And you'd see the first railways snaking down into Santos and Sao Paulo

James Harper: Hmm

Professor Jonathan Morris: So in the 1860s, 1870s. So for example, with Sao Paulo, why does Sao Paulo work? Because they build a railway to the interior. And once you build a railroad, you can ship all the coffee on the railroad. And that's why the port of Sao Paulo, which is known as Santos. That is how it becomes synonymous with coffee, because basically your rail links take you all the way down to Santos.

James Harper: I just like to contrast that we have say Yemen where

Professor Jonathan Morris: yeah

James Harper:  if you want to know how to make coffee really hard to grow and very hard to transport. I mean, you look at Yemen.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah, it's an excellent contrast because everything is different. It's full of those tiny little terraces, tiny little peasant farms, basically

James Harper:  Hmm

Professor Jonathan Morris: In Brazil, there are these huge plantations, enormous mega farms.

James Harper: It really seems like if there's any country that's going to do coffee on the industrial scale, it would be Brazil.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, and that is exactly the right word. Industrial scale is what it is. Yes.

James Harper: You have a terrain. That's not too mountainous. You have the capacity to put in railways. It's also within the tropical belt. You have lots of land. You can clear to grow this coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris:For the 19th, to early 20th century, let's be clear. You know, coffee is the number one agricultural output in Brazil.

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James Harper: Now, Jonathan, I know that coffee, when it was first introduced to Brazil was grown using slave labor.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yes

James Harper: what's that story?

Professor Jonathan Morris:It's estimated that 40% of all enslaved Africans entered their journey in Brazil.

James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris:So it's a huge slate importing country in slave economy. Absolutely huge. This is how Brazil gets settled, colonized land brought into production, it's these people and their conditions, as you can imagine, are far from great about one in 10 of them die on the way over. They go into sugar planting, initially sugar cane, but it gradually sugarcane, particularly once the Europeans discovered sugar beet, uh, the sugar cane industry declines and the coffee takes over

James Harper: Mhmm

Professor Jonathan Morris:We go back to that point about, you know, how you plant more and more coffee.Well, you do this very cheap. And of course in the first place you do it for a cheat by having a slave labor force that you just have to feed and house you don't have to pay.

James Harper: When was slavery officially abolished in Brazil?

Professor Jonathan Morris: it's a slow process, but the first and most critical thing to say is Brazil is the last of the, sort of the recognized Western nations to abolish slavery. Slavery isn't completely abolished until 1888

James Harper: Right?

Professor Jonathan Morris: 1888. That is a long\, long time.

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James Harper: So, Jonathan,  what I'd love to do is zoom in, down into one of these giant coffee plantations in Brazil. How big is big?

Professor Jonathan Morris: So I'm going to give you the example of the man who owns the most coffee in Brazil in 1905, and that man is called Francesco Schmidt.

James Harper: What a, what a bizarre name?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yes, it's a German surname because he's from German stock. I think he is second generation of Francescos. So they've given him the Francesco from being in Brazil. Oh, and Francesco has 5 million coffee trees. Work that out 5 million coffee trees.

James Harper: How do I comprehend this?

James Harper: at this point. What's the

Professor Jonathan Morris: I just realized I understated Francesco, Francesco had 7 million

James Harper: At this point. What's the difference?

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Professor Jonathan Morris: Francesco had 29,000 hectares of coffee fazenda. That is 290 Km square. That is pretty much Malta.

James Harper: Jesus, an entire country of coffee growing

Professor Jonathan Morris: Pretty much. Yeah. Yeah.

James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris:He could, he could have joined the EU.

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James Harper: One thing that's I'm struggling with here is we look at coffee prices. So coffee prices were about what $2 a pound back in 1870

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: Slavery is going out of fashion, but somehow it's off to slavery is abolished. The coffee price continues to go down and down and down

Professor Jonathan Morris: Correct. The major expansion of production is post to that point.

James Harper: Well, how does that work?

Professor Jonathan Morris:The big issue is, well, how are we going to replace this labor? Or how are we going to change our structures? And the way they change the structures is to move to a policy of bringing in indentured labor. So indebted, labor

James Harper: Right

Professor Jonathan Morris: And I mean, you're in the same sort of territory as what we now call them modern slavery because you're in this territory of having ever augmenting debt that you are supposed to work off, which you can't work off.

James Harper: Hmm

Professor Jonathan Morris:  So the spiral continues and continues.

James Harper: Um

Professor Jonathan Morris:  So by 1905, 65% of the workers on coffee farms were foreign born. So 65% of that population has moved to Brazil, to Sao Paolo, to farm coffee has been bought in to do that.

James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris:  That's the sort of level of scale that we’re talking about.

James Harper: 65% of the workforce

Professor Jonathan Morris:65% of the work force

James Harper: That, weren't born in Brazil and are going to reside permanently in Brazil, I'm assuming once they arrived, they're not going to go back.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes, there's certainly very few of them are going to go back to the immigrant dream. If anything, probably they're going to aim to one day, be able to bring their family over, et cetera.

James Harper: And give me a sense of the, when you sell the new frontier dream.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: Hey, listen, you're going to do some hard yards, some hard work, but one day you will have a plot of land to call your own.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's exactly what you sell. And that's a very, very powerful image. If you're stuck as a sharecropper or agricultural peasant, deepened the depression of Europe or on the lands in Japan, it's a powerful promise.

James Harper: So does that mean we see vast tracks of land being all subdivided to little plot of coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris:No, we don't see that probably about a third of the total land is probably relatively small scale farms.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris:But I mean the top 20% of farmers, if you like own 80% of the land

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris:There are many small scale farms, but they are completely overshadowed by this large scale agriculture.

James Harper: That the day is still the case, I believe

Professor Jonathan Morris:It’s certainly the case that the inequalities are massive in Brazil and also that there are big, big industrialized estates where it is possible to sort of use mechanized tools. Again, this is the thing about Brazil being relatively flat and they are absolutely enormous.

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James Harper: So Jonathan, as we enter, you know, the 20th century who is coming over into Brazil to work these farms?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Basically they are peasants from Europe.

James Harper: Hmm

Professor Jonathan Morris: So Portugal is one, uh, some from Germany, some from Eastern Europe, but Italy in particular. Italy is the primary supplier of people and I think it’s a really interesting country to talk about.

James Harper: So why so many from Italy?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Italy had at that time, a lot of overpopulation in backward agricultural areas, but the Italian government actually refused to allow immigrants to be sponsored onto those schemes to Brazil by about, I think it's actually 1902  because the schemes were so unfair.

James Harper: Huh

Professor Jonathan Morris:Now that's quite a big statement from an Italian government at that time, because there's plenty of reason for them to want to encourage people to leave the poverty in Italy itself is very desperate. And in fact, those emigres from Europe gradually become replaced also with emigres from Japan.And now I want to tell you one more thing, because it's quite important.

James Harper: Mhmm

Professor Jonathan Morris:What happened to the enslaved people? Because the answer is actually really sad.

James Harper: Hmm.

Professor Jonathan Morris:So these enslaved people who are now freed, where are they going to get a livelihood? And the answer is they enter into contracts pretty similar to the ones under which they were enslaved.In other words, that they basically still work for these estate owners on the principle of being fed and maintained in subsistence.

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris: And indeed there is an interpretation of Brazilian history at this point, that goes, why did they recruit all these people from Europe and Asia? Answer, because that sort of led to a whitening, of the community.

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James Harper: Alright so, Jonathan you shared with me an image here and it's of a train and there are all these workers and they're kind of grabbing these sacks of coffee and they're 60/70 kilos sacks of coffee, and they're throwing them down this shoot, this whole.

Professor Jonathan Morris: We've talked about creating a supply chain under colonialism, but now what we're talking about is really creating an industrial system. You know, the amazing amounts of work that's being done in terms of building off of the port, building up a system where the coffee arrives into the port can get straight onto the freighters. It kind of goes almost through an underground railway type system at one point. So it dumps out onto the ships. We talk about steam ship, the Telegraph system, which comes in the 1870s so that we have much closer coordination. The other thing to say that of course is we have a banking and a credit system that's tied together. A lot of that is, you know, we have European and American banking houses and large speculative money's going in and out of Santos, the creation of an extremely wealthy. And I mean, extremely wealthy, the people on a parallel with Francesco and his 7 million trees is suddenly sort of hugely wealthy merchants in the port itself, the sort of barons. So we're building a whole infrastructure really. This is the infrastructure of this system whereby ultimately coffee gets quicker and quicker and cheaper and cheaper.

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James Harper: So Jonathan, if we were to like zoom out and take stock of what's happening in Brazil, so you have these railroads and they're like cutting into the interior of Brazil and the deeper, these railroads go the further coffee spreads. So I mean, technology is enabling the rapid destruction of Virgin land and the more you grow, the more supply there is, and the price drops.Now, when I contrast that to the last episode, you know, we saw how slavery contributed to a much lower coffee price and there, you know, human lives were being squeezed to get a cheaper cup of coffee. And it feels like at this time in history, in Brazil, you know, it's the environment that's getting squeezed to get a cheaper cup of coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Absolutely. Yes. I mean, you're absolutely right. The environment has transformed and a lot of things lose on that basis because if you really want to see the price for this, it's not just the price of all the coffee trees. It's the price of those areas where the coffee is exhausted. So if we go back to the area around Rio, there's a lot of coffee produced in Rio in the sort of the second half of the 19th century. And then it really, really drops in terms of production. Partly that's because of the coming on of what we might call Santos and Sao Paulo, partly because basically it's worked out

James Harper: The land is exhausted

Professor Jonathan Morris: The land is exhausted. Can’t produce coffee of the quality that's coming elsewhere. It's it's, it's done for.

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James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris: If you ever tasted Rio coffee, You know that Rio is the name for a faulting coffee.

James Harper: Oh, really?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, Mold,  basically. It smells moldy because it, because the standard of production and the coffee quality

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James Harper: So Jonathan, I wanted to kind of connect the flavors of Brazilian coffee to the story. So I put some beans from Brazil roasted by friends of the show Supremo, which is a roaster in Southern Germany and, you know, put through my Comandante, and I just brew it up now in a V 60. And I got to say, it's tasting pretty good.

Professor Jonathan Morris:I put it through the Sage grinder and made it as a French press. Very pleasant.

James Harper: Yeah. And this Boa Vista has this classic Brazilian profile. It's quite, nutty

Professor Jonathan Morris:I really got that in the aroma. Tell you what though James. What made this a bit of a specialty coffee moment for me, unlike some Brazilians, this also has a lovely fruit notes in it.

James Harper: You know, these flavors here, your fruit notes, my nutty note, we're talking about the drinking of Brazilian coffee. Now Brazil is producing, you know, a huge amount of coffee and let's explore who was drinking it a hundred years ago?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Well that’s a fairly simple answer. We were talking about the height of Brazilian coffee in the 19 hundreds.And at that time, you know, Brazil is making 80% plus of the world's coffee and 70% plus of that Brazilian coffee just goes to one market and that's the United States.

James Harper: But how does the U S all of a sudden, just stop drinking so much coffee? It's not like that wake up one morning. I was like, you know, I really fancy cup of coffee. Okay. So I know that America, you know, in the 17 hundreds, it has a very small population, but I mean, the population explodes over the next couple of hundred years. And a lot of people come over from Europe. Does that have something to do with American love affair with coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Actually, it is the big expansion of migration from Europe to the US again, in the second half of the 19th century, you know, find the immigrant dream, the dream of America, these people, you know, what do they associate with successful? One of that is being able to drink coffee.

James Harper: Are you saying the American dream is based on the idea that everyone can afford a cup of coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris:I think that becomes a part of the American dream and a it's one that's fulfilled

James Harper: Hmm

Professor Jonathan Morris: By the 1940s, 98% of US households report drinking coffee. So, you know, it is part of the American dream in that sense.

James Harper: Wow but at one point Americans weren't drinking as much coffee. So how did it go from a state of not drinking so much to 98% of all households drinking coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Well, if we look at consumption per capita, number of pounds of coffee, right in 1800, it's about one and a half, 1.65 in 1830 It's just under three in 1860.We're at 5.78. So we're pushing six. Yeah.

James Harper: Let me just be clear about this between 1,800 and 1860 coffee consumption per person, goes up from one and a half pounds to six pounds in like 60 years.

Professor Jonathan Morris:So we're seeing some fairly rapid increases and that's about the point that I think industrialization really kicks in.And then, by 1920 we're up to just under 12 pounds per capita. Yeah. So from six to 12 in those 60 years, and if we want to just finish that off the 1950s, probably about 16 pounds per capita with some points reaching 19 pounds. So we're seeing a massive, massive increase.

James Harper: Okay. So Jonathan, let me just put that into perspective. Okay. So I drink three cups of coffee a day. That's 30 grams of coffee. Do the maths. That is about 11 kilos of coffee a year, about 24 pounds. So if the average American is drinking 19 pounds of coffee a year, the average American, that means the average American is kind of like me. They are heavy coffee drinkers.

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Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. It became a very caffeinated society. There are several. Stages on the way to that. So I want to point to one big thing, and that is the American civil war.

James Harper: Umm

Professor Jonathan Morris:Now the American civil war was not a war for coffee, but one side had coffee and one side didn't and the site that did the union side, they absolutely pumped their soldiers full of coffee.

James Harper: Right

Professor Jonathan Morris:Because this is the thing that provides them with a hint of pleasure or hints of domesticity in a very difficult situation. But it's also something that keeps them awake that keeps them alert that makes them good fighters. So their generals absolutely push it through. So to give you a very interesting stat, if you go through the diaries of civil war soldiers

James Harper: Okay.

Professor Jonathan Morris: You will find the word coffee more frequently than you will find the word rifle. Or bullets or guns, right? So this is how much it matters. There's a very famous memoir of an ordinary, as it were competent on the union side, what's it called? Heart attack and coffee.

James Harper: Hmm

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Professor Jonathan Morris:And he says, you know, we have coffee all the time. We have coffee before every meal, we have coffee during every meal, we have coffee after every meal. When we go on a March, we start out with a coffee because it gets us going. We have a coffee when we finish, you know, if you look at the camp at night, all you'll see is lots and lots of fires with people brewing coffee, they put up the ration to the point that you could probably certainly using the amounts that they were given in those days.Make about 10 cups of coffee a day.

James Harper: 10 cups a day

Professor Jonathan Morris:Obviously a big potential demand because when these people go back to society, their habits is ingrained.

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James Harper: So we have a transition from green coffee where everyone's roasting the green coffee themselves, but then at some point the roasting aspect of that is taken away from the household

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: And is done by a company. Oh, I went down to my local greengrocers and I looked at the quality of the fruit to make a smoothie. It's like, Oh, I want this Apple cause it's really ripe.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: And then we'll make my Apple smoothie, but then that gets transformed to no, here is a pre-packaged ready-made apple smoothie for you. You can buy off the shelf.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: And that's the same thing that happens with coffee roasting.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. And what's very interesting, James is that you've actually hit on one of the ways in which this coffee was marketed. One of the first big marketers is Arbuckles and their adverts have things like, you know, a picture of a woman going, “Oh no, I've burnt my coffee again.” And the gentle friend says, “Ah. There’s no need for this, you know, just buy your coffee pre roasted by Arbuckle's.

They roast it perfectly every time.“ There's no shame, the new messing up and this isn't absolute trope of coffee, advertising and marketing throughout most of this industrial period, which is to say, we know what we're doing and you'll just mess it up.

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Professor Jonathan Morris:So just rely on us and use our stuff. And then it will all be okay. And a lot of it is very targeted at Housewives at newly married women.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris: You know, are you going to get your husband's coffee right? You're going to make sure your husband’s coffee's okay. What if your husband doesn't like the coffee? Oh my God. You don't know how to make coffee, right? Oh, listen. It's a breeze just by us. We've got it sorted for you. We've got it covered for you.

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James Harper: Do we have a sense of the scale of the industrialization of roasting of coffee? The industrial scale of which coffee is roasted?

Professor Jonathan Morris:By about the 1920s, we've got about 5,000 enterprises that roast, but three of them hold 40% of the US coffee market.

James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris:And that is A&P, Maxwell House, and Chase & Sanborn. But of course both Maxwell House and Chase and Sanborn, by that time, having started as independent operations in the sort of 1890s, 1870s are owned by huge mega corporations.

James Harper: I'm picturing gigantic corporations, roasting gigantic quantities of coffee in America.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: And I'm picturing gigantic plantations growing gigantic quantities of coffee over in Brazil.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, I think we concern image of this. The Arbuckles roasting facility in New York, where I believe they had something like 65, 70 industrial roasting machines operating at the same time.

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris:This is roasting on a scale that's never been seen before.

James Harper: So Jonathan, you shared with me a postcard, I believe.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes.

James Harper: Which is a bit of a marketing thing. So this looks like an eight story factory.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yep.

James Harper: With chimneys spurting out black fumes into the sky

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: You have a giant ship on a dock nearby.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: And down below it says 839,972 pounds roasted daily, basically 840,000 pounds of coffee roaster the day.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Wow. That's that's staggering and I'm very tempted, James, because you always do this to me to sort of throw you back and do the math and say, turn all that number of pounds into something that we can think about.

James Harper: Well, we know that I drink 24 pounds of coffee a year. So 840,000 divided by 24 is 35,000. And one day, this factory posts enough coffee to keep 35,000 MES caffeine for a whole year.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Wow. That's a really useful thing.

James Harper: And now you can picture me drinking coffee, 35,000.

Professor Jonathan Morris: That's pretty terrifying.

James Harper: And on that note, I'll just drink another cup of coffee. Um, but also what's interesting is that this is a huge concentration of coffee roasting happening in one place. But again in Brazil, there are coffee farms, this size of Malta.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: And I see these two things going hand in hand.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Absolutely. It's what I would call a symbiotic relationship here. The one feeds the other and it's a circular thing

James Harper: Industrialization growing and the industrialization of roasting.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Exactly. So

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Professor Jonathan Morris:And in between, if you don't mind me saying almost the industrialization of trading. It's no accident that that factory is on the banks of the river in New York. That's where the coffee is coming in, being shipped in. But it's also where the money that's trading that coffee is coming from.

James Harper: So Jonathan, you know, an awful lot of money is being produced. And it seems to me a quite unequal system, both from the growing and on the roasting. Where you have a handful of companies and individuals who control the majority of the growing and the same on the roasting.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: And so a lot of the profit in the coffee industry going towards a handful of people or companies.

Professor Jonathan Morris: I think what I would say is what you have is the outlines of the modern industry and the Alvanov mountain capitalism course, you don't see in slave labor anymore. Or indentured labor, but this thing whereby we have huge numbers of people at one end of the supply chain

James Harper: Mhmm

Professor Jonathan Morris:And huge numbers of people that the other so huge numbers of producers, huge numbers of consumers, producers in all forms. So as in workers and consumers in all forms, all those ordinary people buying their coffee and in the middle of the funnel, as it were that funnels it down, funnels it down into Santos and funnels it out again from New Yorker, Houston or wherever it's landed that sort of funnel in funnel out. And that is what our system still looks like. Now you could say that's what any capitalist commodity chain system looks like, but that is certainly how the coffee chain looks at this point.

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James Harper: So Jonathan hand-in-hand we have coffee growing in Brazil at a frightening, rate. And you have the consumption of coffee in America growing at a frightening rate. And the two of them are going hand in hand.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: So tell me. Why on earth? Am I looking at an image right now that you sent me? It's a bunch of people in Brazil. We're at the front of a steam engine and they're throwing flammable material into the engine to move the thing forward, but they're not throwing coal in there.

Professor Jonathan Morris:No

James Harper: They're throwing coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: They're throwing coffee mixed with a bit of petroleum because they've got to get rid of the coffee. This is the huge problem that faced Brazil when over supply outstrips demand and they had to become desperate to take any measure to stop it depressing the price too much. Now in the thirties, we have a combination of Brazil's biggest ever coffee harvests, and of course, The wall street crash and the great depression destroying demand

James Harper: Aaah

Professor Jonathan Morris: And the resultant problem for the preserving government is how the hell do we keep the coffee price at a level where it's still profitable for the country?

James Harper: Umm

Professor Jonathan Morris:  So. What's your, do you know, you've got too much coffee? Well, what you do is get rid of the coffee. You try finding other uses for it. Well, one news they tried was, you know, let's see if we can power our trains with it. They try to make it into cattle feed apparently.

James Harper: Wow. That would have been wild

Professor Jonathan Morris:Pretty wild cows, unsurprisingly, that didn't work

James Harper: Poor animals.

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Professor Jonathan Morris:But I mean the two basic things that they did were destroy it, destroy it by burn it or destroy it by dumping it in the sea. In the thirties, the Brazilian state set up huge incineration plants about 75 of them.

James Harper: Right.

Professor Jonathan Morris:And to give you the indication of the scale, they burned the equivalent of. Three years global supply of coffee, right?

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Three years of global supply because there was that much over

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James Harper: Jonathan I, I was only born in the eighties, but even during my lifetime, there have been many price crashes in coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: This dislocation that we see between supply and demand happening in 1930s, which led to the burning of coffee on trains in Brazil.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: So this is the beginning of what seems to be a recurring trend for the next hundred years.

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Professor Jonathan Morris: It is the start of the boom and bust economy in coffee, stimulus of expanding market then collapsed through oversupply, rebalancing through some kind of catastrophe. And we're back where we start.

James Harper: And what's extraordinary is how this. Disconnect between supply and demand at least to a whole bunch of different things.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: But one of them is a dark bitter powder

Professor Jonathan Morris:in so many ways

James Harper: Right. And so it seems like the next 60 years of coffee history, which we're going to cover in the next episode begins at this point of severe dislocation between supply and demand and leads to amongst other things. The specialty coffees that we are drinking right now, like this Boa Vista Brazilian from our friends at Supremo

Professor Jonathan Morris:Well, you know what I'm going to say. I'm delighted that something as nice as the Boa Vista has come out to fund

James Harper: Umm

Professor Jonathan Morris: but I think we're going to see that there was a pretty big cost.

James Harper: Join us next time on another edition of coffee history

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Professor Jonathan Morris:Thank you for listening to this episode of the History of Coffee.

James Harper: Now I've put images of Brazilian coffee farms on my Instagram channel @Filterstoriespodcast.

Professor Jonathan Morris:And I have put up on my Instagram channel @coffeehistoryjm, images of Americans drinking coffee, particularly during the times of the civil war.

James Harper: And while you're there, don't forget to checkout our Instagram live session, where we explore what the British were doing in Ceylon, modern day Sri Lanka with coffee. And if you want to dive deeper into any of these stories, I also highly recommend checking out Jonathan's book Coffee a Global History, and we've put a link in the show notes.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Thanks James. And in fact, I'm going to give away one copy of Coffee a Global History. If people would like to write a review on Apple podcast. Tell us what story resonated with them the most, we'll draw one at random from those reviews and a copy of the book will be sent to them.

James Harper: But of course you're all anonymous on a podcast. So send a screen, grab of your review to me at, and we'll choose an email at random. And then get in touch for further details.

Professor Jonathan Morris:This podcast was produced by myself and James and it was James who wrote and played the piano music.

James Harper: I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for listening. And we'll speak to you next time.

Musical interlude

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