Slavery, Suffering and Affordable Luxury - Episode transcript

Why do we get upset when we’re charged €36 for an ordinary cappuccino? The answer flies us to the Caribbean where white Europeans make black Africans suffer. In this second episode of A History of Coffee, we uncover how colonialism squeezes the price of coffee, and how that changes European culture forever. A History of Coffee is a collaboration between James Harper of the Filter Stories - Coffee Documentaries podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of ‘Coffee: A Global History’.

James Harper: So Jonathan, I want you to picture the scene. You're walking into a busy cafe and the waiter comes over and sits you down by the wall.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: You order a cappuccino, you look around, you check your phone, you drink a cappuccino. It's your trusty delicious cappuccino.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Okay.

James Harper: And then, yeah, it's, you know, half an hour is up, it's time for you to leave. And, uh, you asked for the bill.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: So he looked down at the bill and you see the cost of the cappuccino. And it comes to $36 dollars, US dollars. How would you feel?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Where does that possibly come from? You know, did you make it with gold? Uh, no way James, no way. No. Am I paying that at all.

James Harper: It's funny. I mean, because historically speaking. Coffee kind of, was that expensive?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes, it was. I was looking at the Amsterdam coffee exchange. One pound of coffee. 1735 would have cost you $13.41, cents.

James Harper: $13.41 for a pound of green coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes Yeah.

James Harper: Today, I know the price of coffee is more or less a dollar, a pound.

Professor Jonathan Morris:More or less a dollar a pound yeah

James Harper: And this is what's remarkable. Here we are in the early 1700s paying over $13 for a pound of coffee. You're fast forward 300 years and we're paying what a dollar more or less for coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: So it goes down 13 times in just 300 years.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: And Jonathan, I'm going to argue that one of the most enduring legacies of colonialism is this idea that coffee should be cheap.

James Harper: The idea that we are outraged when we see coffee at $36 for a cappuccino.

Professor Jonathan Morris: I would absolutely agree with you. That is the heart of the story of coffee, and it's how coffee became an everyday commodity in a good way, in a bad way.

James Harper: And in this episode, we're going to explore how colonialism brought the coffee price down and down and down much closer to where we are today.And we're going to be looking at, who had to suffer, and in what ways were they made to suffer in order, for Europeans to get cheaper coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: I think it’s put in a nutshell, James, what we're looking at is what is the true cost of that coffee?

James Harper: I'm James Harper, the creator of Filter Stories, a coffee documentary podcast

Professor Jonathan Morris: and I'm Jonathan Morris, professor of history and author of Coffee: A Global History.

James Harper: And this is A History of Coffee, a six episode podcast series, whereJonathan and I untangle how this small psychoactive seed changes the world and continue to shape our life today.Jonathan, let's pick up from the last episode and to do that, I want to quickly tell you about a time. When I was in India in 2014 on a motorcycle going from the North to the South. And along the way I passed these beautiful mountainous tea fields covered in clouds. And the further South I went, the people that I met drank less tea and more coffee.And then at one point I motorcycle into this region called Baba Budan and Baba Budan is a person and he's credited with bringing coffee, from Yemen to India.And of course this is a big deal because if we remember from the last episode, Yemen controlled the world supply of coffee in the late 1600s.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. Effectively, as we said, Mokha has done monopoly on coffee.

James Harper: And the Ottoman empire who controlled Yemen would dry out the coffee bean so that it was basically impossible to grow coffee outside of Yemen.This was their way of keeping a monopoly,but Jonathan, tell me how did this Baba Budan character actually get the beans out of Yemen.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Baba Budan  is a spiritual man and Muslim, and he makes the pilgrimages and he makes the pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

James Harper: Uh, which would be Mecca. Yep. One day Saudi Arabia

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah. So the myth is that Baba Budan smuggle these seedlings out.In his clothing, possibly in his turbine, possibly in his undergarments and plants these back in India. And this is how coffee reaches India. I don't think we have any proof of this whatsoever. What makes more sense to me is I think that this is another attempt by those people who controlled the Indian ocean trade.Those Banyan merchants.

James Harper: The Gujaratis

Professor Jonathan Morris:The Gujaratis, teah. Who to find another place where they can grow coffee.

James Harper: So you're saying that Baba Budan, he is another coffee myth

Professor Jonathan Morris: You know, coffee myths and coffee history don't always mix that. Well, it's a lovely myth, but I don't think there is anything that we can realistically back it up with.

James Harper: Okay. So we have a situation now where coffee is growing in India, potentially transported by the dominant trading power at the time, which were the good Gujaratis, the Banyans. And yeah, at some point the Dutch get hold of it. How does that happen and what do they do with it?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Well, so the dots get hold of it and take it to Java

James Harper: for those who are unaware, Java is an Island that sits in the middle of the South China sea in that bast archipelago, that is Indonesia. Yeah. You know, obviously we talk about, you know, cups of Java. So is there a link there?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, this is something that we see a lot with the first American coffee brands of the late 19th century will proclaim themselves Java and hence Java becomes a common term for coffee.

James Harper: There we go.

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James Harper: So Jonathan, when the Dutch brought coffee to Java, were the people of Java happy to receive it?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Well, I would hardly doubt it because it's of no value to them. Okay. Why not? The system in Java was that you had villages and these villages owed tribute to a Lord. And what happened was that the Dutch effectively said to that elite, well, listen, we will keep you in power, but what you do is you give us a proportion of revenue or crop. That we want, basically what happens, therefore is a village has a certain amount of coffee growing imposed upon it. But I mean, the real issue is that the Dutch wants this coffee grown more economically and therefore they push for coffee to be grown or on sort of designated areas where they know it will do well in larger.More extensive systems. And that means that the peasants are effectively forced for part of their year to go and work on these estates as part of their remissions to their lord.

James Harper: Do we have any idea of what kind of quality of life they had?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah, we're talking subsistence farming, but the point is, that's why it's so devastating when they're told to do the coffee, because in effect it's, the coffee takes them away, both in terms of time, but actually in some cases, in terms of distance, from the plots that they need to be cultivating in order to generate their own resources.

James Harper: You know, they're like, Hey, we just want to live our life, grow our food, hang out with our family and friends.Oh, but we have to trudge off for a couple of days.

Professor Jonathan Morris:We have to do this stuff. Yes, exactly.

James Harper: And they are doing it ultimately because the Dutch are giving some good deals to the local rulers to be like, Hey, get us this coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: I would describe it as a little bit of a protection racket, really.

James Harper: Okay

Professor Jonathan Morris:The good deal for the local rulers continued to rule, and relatively unthreatened, and in fact, they're backed by now the forces of the Dutch empire.

James Harper: So this is really. The beginnings of coffee, becoming a colonial crop.

Professor Jonathan Morris: So, I mean to coin a name that's known in coffee these days, Max Havelaar. So Max Havelaar is actually the pseudonym of a Dutch official who writes a book. And what he really does is show how the Javanese elite are maintained in power. While, the peasantry starved.

James Harper: Oh wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris: And have the Dutch system is complicit in that. And when anyone tries to challenge this, then they themselves find themselves ostracized and thrown out essentially of kind of Dutch society.

James Harper: Wow. So he's was a very difficult system to challenge it's just too profitable.

Professor Jonathan Morris: It's extremely difficult to challenge


Professor Jonathan Morris:  The Havelaar novel is really about the powerlessness, even of officials who are enlightened.

Professor Jonathan Morris: So even if you're in the system, you can’t really change it.

James Harper: So we have Yemen growing coffee. Then Java gets added to the mix as two big coffee exporters. And then we have a period of the colonial production of coffee. So

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper:  Let's freeze frame, 1780. Where in the world would coffee be growing?

Professor Jonathan Morris: So 1780 dominant area of the world for coffee growing is now the Caribbean.We're looking at Saint-Domingue, which is a French territory. We're looking at Martinique again, French. We're looking at Jamaica, British, and we're looking at Suriname, Dutch and Cuba, of course, Spanish.

James Harper: Okay. So basically, yeah, a lot of the Caribbean.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper: And why is the Caribbean the place for coffee growing at this point in time?

Professor Jonathan Morris: I think one reason for that is that the Caribbean area is being used for two crops. It's not just coffee. In fact, coffee's not even the dominant crop. The dominant crop is sugar.

James Harper: Oh

Professor Jonathan Morris:The thing about this is that these islands, they have low lying areas around the coast, and then they have much higher. Areas in the interior, those areas around the coast are perfect for sugar cane.You know, we talk about the coffee revolution, but the sugar revolution sugar is so, so desirable. And consequently coffee is the symbiotic crop to sugar, sugar on the low p8lains intensive, big plantation farming, coffee, smaller plantations, usually higher up the mountains. And the Caribbean is at the center of the slave trade.That is where you can take your slaves, occupy these relatively low population countries. And it's relatively easy to trade from there Caribbean

James Harper: Coffee and sugar. It's such a perfect marriage.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That's a perfect marriage, unless you're the poor person who has to actually do the work in which case it's the perfect nightmare.

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James Harper: Okay. So, Jonathan, what I want to do now is unpack how the colonial coffee system works and want to unpack that later in the episode, we'll touch on how that translates to lower and lower coffee prices, but to understand why prices fall. We need to understand where people were found in the first place to work for nothing and how the system controlled them.So they continued working for nothing. So let's now talk about the enslaved people. Where were they enslaved?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Okay. So nearly all of the people who work in the Caribbean, African origin, they are enslaved. And the enslaved, usually by Africans, they were brought usually to the West coast of Africa and they would be acquired fare by Europeans, shipped across the Atlantic and then sold on to planters in the Caribbean.

James Harper: So of course, I mean, Europeans are creating the demand for slaves

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah

James Harper: So that the enslavers in Africa are kind of acting on this demand to try to find people to meet it.

Professor Jonathan Morris:That is true. Yes. The real problem is we have already slave trading going on in Africa, but when you look at West Africa and the slave trade to the Atlantic, you're exactly right.The demand creates this massive slating economy. Could easily be that a third of the people in those areas ended up being enslaved.

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James Harper: That is a huge number.

Professor Jonathan Morris: It is.

James Harper: I'm imagining a European ship they've arrived off the West coast of Africa.

Professor Jonathan Morris:Yeah.

James Harper: They throw their anchor overboard. They get in their rowboats and kind of get onto the shores

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah

James Harper: Of continental Africa. And they ask we're here to buy slaves.

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Professor Jonathan Morris:They would go on shore. They would probably offload cargo from Europe.The enslaved people are held in buildings that are almost like faults by the coast. They usually hold them in shackles. Uh, those people are then transported by boat out onto the big ships. Again, shackled placed in the holds and they're going to be kept there for the whole of the voyage.

James Harper: Do we have any idea of what the conditions were like on board?

Professor Jonathan Morris: Well, think about slave ships, James, if you look at the zillions of slave ships

James Harper: Okay. I'm just gonna put that into a Cozier now and actually, Oh, geez.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Right. Tell me about this image.

James Harper: So what we have here is a cross section of La Marie Seraphique from 1770.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Uh huh. Yeah.

James Harper: On the bottom deck is a lot of barrels.Then the deck above that is again, mostly barrels and a bit of food, but then the deck, which is below the main deck, you know, the top deck, it is just like. A hundred people just crammed underneath. In fact, there's literally not an inch between them.

Professor Jonathan Morris:You know, this image is interesting because this ship we know about slave ship because that slave ship was used for coffee.

James Harper: How many months at sea would you be in these cramped conditions?

Professor Jonathan Morris: I think that voyage could probably take up to three months.

James Harper: Where would you go to the bathroom? What would happen if you got sick?

Professor Jonathan Morris:Okay. Where would you go to the bathroom where you were chained in all probability? What would happen if you got sick?You might well be disposed of because you're no value. A sick human is like a sick animal on a farm. You know, it's no longer useful. If you die, you're over the side. If you become a danger, you're over the side.We have to understand James. They're not treated or regarded as people they're regarded as a commodity.

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James Harper: And then this ship here. La Marie Seraphique, Where would it have sailed into?

Professor Jonathan Morris:if you look at the image.

James Harper: Alright, so Jonathan, you sent me an image here and I see this giant classic 17th century ship with sails and masts. And in the background, is this beautiful Island, big mountains kind of rising out of the ocean. Yeah.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah. So that is Saint-Domingue.

James Harper: Saint-Domingue. What is that today?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***So that today is Haiti\, Haiti.

James Harper: Okay.

Professor Jonathan Morris: What you're seeing that James, the ships arrived. It's thrown out its anchor, and it's now auctioning off its slaves, but it's quite an event. So you look at the back of the ship stern. You see there's a white canopy. Yeah.

James Harper: Yeah

Professor Jonathan Morris: And under the canopy are people seating, having a picnic.These are the settlers who are that, their families. It's a big day. You know, they're having their picnic in the middle where you saw those enslaved people. That's where they're being held. You'll see, there's a big, giant iron screen that stopping them, getting onto the back. Yeah. And on the front end of the ship of the quarter deck, they're actually auctioning.

James Harper: Wow.

Professor Jonathan Morris: So the serious auctioning is going on there.

James Harper: This is such a surreal image.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Exactly. It's it’s

James Harper: It's madness. I mean, you have people having tea and crumpets and goodness knows what under this beautiful white canopy, these Europeans

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Well\, I'm going to get\, they were having coffee actually, but yes

James Harper: and overseeing these enslaved Africans who ever knows how they survived that journey in these horrific circumstances, it kept in the bowels of a ship for three months

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah

James Harper: As if, Oh, it's just a lovely day out. Oh, they're being auctioned off. Of course, you know, we're selling the goods that we brought. Isn't everything great?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah. That's exactly it. That is the celebration. We're selling the goods off at the end of the voyage celebration times.

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Professor Jonathan Morris: And I mean, I should say, you know, the buying of the slaves. Well, it's described in this book by a guy called PJ Laborie.

James Harper: Okay

Professor Jonathan Morris: It is like a technical manual, how to farm coffee, but of course the process involves slaves and he has a whole sections on how you handle the slaves and it is the same technical detail as the rest of the book. It's like livestock

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***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And so he says\, you know\, you go down when you buy a slave, what are you looking for? For, you're looking for kind of a lustrous skin color. You look at the teeth, do they have the muscles in the right places? You want to buy them young. You want to buy them sort of, you know, 14, 15 so that you can mold them to the masters opinion.That's the exact words he uses

James Harper: Psychological control.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah, exactly.

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***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And he then describes\, you know\, what you have to do when you get them. Oh, well then you basically make them drink “sudorific potions”. What this means is you've got to get these people, who've endured that voyage. You're not going to make them sweat and vomit for two weeks because you want to get rid of anything.They picked up during the voyage. So you actually kept them to drink sea water and salt water. To raise the temperature, and make them sweat and vomit

James Harper: Unimaginable.

Professor Jonathan Morris: And, um, then you have to do what he describes the unfortunate but necessary active branding them.

James Harper: And this is goes in detail. This book is detailing all of this?

Professor Jonathan Morris: This book details, all of this in the same way as elsewhere at details, the process by which washed coffee is produced in the sense of using, you know, water channels to convey the coffee and get it through graters and so forth.But at the whole thing is in the same tone.So a whole section on whips, you know, here's the different knots that you use in your whips, clean your whip, and you must clean your knots. You must clean between whippings because you know, you can't afford to transfer infection.This is torture. This is, this is just torture.

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***Professor Jonathan Morris:***I found this so difficult to read when I was researching it.

James Harper: Okay. So we've heard about the French and how they created these manuals for essentially enslaving people and put it into work. What were the Dutch doing? We know the Dutch were over in Indonesia, you know, working with local

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah

James Harper:  rulers, outsourcing their dirty work to get coffee.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yes.

James Harper: And I know they were in SurinameYou hear Suriname and I think where on earth is that? somewhere in the Caribbean, but can you place it for me geographically?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***if you see\, think of the continent that we call South America, if you think on the kind of the Northeast side effects, Suriname then is quite small.

James Harper: Yeah. In fact, I'm putting it into a cozier now.It's kind of like this little tiny state, you know, clinging onto the side of the coast sandwich between Venezuela and Brazil.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Exactly.

James Harper: So how were the Dutch growing coffee in Suriname?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***This is the big shift for the Dutch because Suriname is straightforward slave plantation, right?

James Harper: Do we have any evidence as to what conditions the enslaved people were put to work?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***There's a fantastic image in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, which you can freely access, which is of a plantation called something like, “Liverpool”

James Harper: Yeah, so Jonathan, you have sent me an image. It is, extraordinary. It's like, imagine if a drone took off from the short of a river, right up into the air and like stead into a forest. But instead of seeing, you know, miles and miles of forest, you saw these lines, rows of perfectly positioned coffee trees row after row after row. And it cuts right into the forest, like with a scalpel.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah

James Harper: And the first thing that hits me is it's just a large, this system must be. Geez. I who knows. I mean, look, 50 football fields, wherever of coffee growing here

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***It looks like that. Doesn't it? I mean\, this is land that's basically been carved out from land and colonized with coffee.

James Harper: Then I zoom in the first thing you noticed there is like dark brown houses and white houses. You have black enslaved Africans, not wearing very much.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah

James Harper: And you have white Europeans, you know, in all their 17th century butchers and hats and, you know, coattails and all that kind of thing with guns.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yes. You see that absolutely reproduce the divides within the whole of the plantation system. And you can almost read it. From left to, right. So the brown houses that you see, they're kind of like a three-sided quadrangle, aren't they? That's your slave housing, the middle of your picture. You see all the processing going on, you see people working the patios

James Harper: and they're, they're drying the coffee, you know, taking, the coffee cherry and putting it under the sun. So you can then husk it out later to get the coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Exactly right. Yes. Natural processing. And you know, as we go over towards the right hand side, we see what's labeled, you know, housing for whites. If you look at the key and to the original picture

James Harper: Oh yea, because every building's labeled

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Everything is labeled.

James Harper: Yeah. Wow. And, you know, the white housing, it looks like a Pennsylvania farmstead.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's that kind of architecture that is, you know, the Dutch style, is it not? but what quite a contrast with look over to the left? That looks like a prison. Yeah?

James Harper: Yeah.

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James Harper: Jonathan, do we have an idea of how tough things were like how many people died?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***There was a historian of Suriname James\, who said that “Suriname was the probably the place where man's inhumanity to man reached its zenith”. And that gives you a sense of how tough it was. I mean really tough. So we don't have fantastic figures in terms of working that out, but I'd like to just tell you a couple of things.1738, those Dutch West India company slave ship, it's called the Leusden and that has about 700 enslaved Africans. It's carrying them through Suriname on the big rivers through Suriname to go to the plantations. You get caught up in a storm. So, what happens is that the captain tells the crew to shut the hold, to lock all the phase, enslaved people into the hold so that they won't get onto the lifeboats because he wants to make sure that they, the crew get the lifeboats.Okay? 664 people die, suffocate, drown. Jeez. As the boat sinks.

James Harper: Geez

Professor Jonathan Morris: The crew, of course, scaped. That's the way that people thought about enslaved people.

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James Harper: You know, looking at this image of the slave plantation in Suriname. One thing that strikes me is how it seems really unbalanced in the sense that I can count dozens and dozens of black enslaved Africans.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah.

James Harper: And I don't know a handful of white Europeans. What is stopping? People from just rising up and getting rid of their oppressors?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***The shorter answer\, would be\, I mean\, there is a system of enforcement that is carried out through a bunch of both white and then black overseers of various kinds. So you had the slave driver, is of course a slave himself, who will be given. Extra rations incentives, etcetera, to perform their role.

James Harper: Oh wow.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***So you have a system in which\, in effect\, people are coerced into collaboration. If I can make a parallel, because if we think about Saint-Domingue, you know, the punishments in Saint-Domingue, in theory, these were regulated. You weren't allowed to do certain things to your slave by so-called black code, code for blacks.

James Harper: Interesting.

Professor Jonathan Morris: But you know, you could hit them. You could whip them. That was fine. You couldn't theoretically kill them, but you could can them and pay a fee to the justices to do that for you.

James Harper: So

Professor Jonathan Morris: So your slave has transmitted a major transgression

James Harper: Right

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***A lot of slaves you're accused of things like poisoning, which are extremely vague.Now, if you can sign your slaves to a court system in a country that's dominated basically by your colonial power, you pretty much know you'll get the outcome you're after.

James Harper: Right.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And you have to pay a fee. For the punishment that has to be meted out. So punishment of execution costs a certain amount.

James Harper: Huh?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And you pay the fee for it

James Harper: As the enslaver?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***As the enslavers

James Harper: Okay. Hold on. Doesn't the state have to pay for executions?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***No\, this is it. The state is charging you the fee for execution. Again, you know, your point about why do people not rise up? Well, one reason is because they're intimidated. One way of, you know, intimidating them is to help these punishments, very publicly.It's intended far beyond the getting rid of somebody troublesome. It's intending to sear a message into the minds of people in the system that you don't rebel.

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James Harper: We've looked at how coffee was grown in Yemen. In the last episode, you know, small little farmers growing coffee on a mountain, not being forced to grow by anybody not being forced to sell by anybody. And in this episode, we explore the system in Java. Where the Dutch use local rulers to produce coffee

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Indentured\, labor it's, as you say, essentially, working to produce fixed craters that have been imposed on them by that Lords.

James Harper: And we've also explored in depth Suriname where the Dutch ran the slave plantations themselves

Professor Jonathan Morris: Labor cost, zero incentive. Avoid the whip.

James Harper: What did this old do to the price of coffee and how much coffee was coming into Europe?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***I'm going to take you for two dates\, 1735 and then 25 years later, 1760.

James Harper: So, and this is significant because in this time period, Yemen fades as the coffee growing region. And Java and Surname start producing a lot, lot more

Professor Jonathan Morris: 1735. And we talked about it with our expensive cappuccino, 1735 coffee from Yemen coming in at 13.41, $13 dollars 41 cents per pound in today's money.

James Harper: Right.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Java is at $9 dollars 24

James Harper: Okay. So it's about a third cheaper than Yemen?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Suriname at $8.26.

James Harper: So slightly people still

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Now in 1760\, Yemen's dropped a bit.It's $12.80\, Suriname has dropped to $5 dollars 1 cent. Okay?

James Harper: Wow

Professor Jonathan Morris: So that is a huge difference.

James Harper: And when the price is through and I mean coffee is this cheap. Who's producing more coffee overall that Java or Suriname?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***So Suriname is producing the most coffee at the cheapest price.

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James Harper: And so the story for me here is the system where people suffer the most, which is the Suriname system.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah.

James Harper:  It manages to produce the most coffee, get the most cheaply. Musical Interlude

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yes, but that is exactly the price of the suffering.

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James Harper: So coffee is now getting down to $5 a pound. And Jonathan, now this is the point where I want to explore. How does cheaper coffee begin to affect European culture?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Well\, I sent you two images from Paris. Okay. James Harper: Okay.

Professor Jonathan Morris: We've got one image which shows of the patrons of the Café Procope from the 1700s. Tell me what you think of those people?

James Harper: You know those reenactments of the signing of the declaration of independence? It looks just like that. A lot of men, a lot of wigs, a lot of white stockings, all sat round and talking politics and drinking enough, very ornate established.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Men in wigs\, that's what we're talking here. The cafe Procope is a place where high society goes.

James Harper: So we're talking about the late 17th century, early 18th century. So at this point

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah.

James Harper: Coffee from the port of Mokha, as in Yemen would have been the coffee, they will be drinking.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yes\, absolutely.

James Harper: Right. This is before, you know, slave plantations were a thing.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yes.

James Harper: So wealthy people drinking, a very excited it's a product

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Refined product\, refined surroundings.

James Harper: Gotcha. So you sent me this other image. This is a woman. She looks like an all Italian grandmother sitting in the Piazza in her work clothes. She's got a cloth around their head, a dirty apron, and she's pouring a bit of milk and coffee into a bowl. We have like a bread basket next to her.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***So she is selling café au lait\, on the street to anyone who will buy it.

James Harper: Oh, wow.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And so I'm making the contrast James\, because that's the hundred years right there.

James Harper: Geez.

Professor Jonathan Morris: A hundred years from coffee breaking out from Yemen being produced in the Caribbean and becoming a mascot, basically being sold on the streets.

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James Harper: Mm. This is coffee when it goes from a luxury to an affordable luxury.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Exactly.

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James Harper: So Jonathan, remember how outraged you where, when you got that bill for a cappuccino cost $36.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Oh yes. I certainly do

James Harper: I think that outrage comes from the fact that for hundreds of years, coffee has remained a daily affordable luxury. It was a daily affordable luxury for my mum. The same from my mom's father. The same for his grandfather, the same for my great, great, great, great grandfather.And I remember my Italian mom making coffee on the stove top in a Bialetti for me, that's a beautiful memory. She has a memory of her father sipping an espresso in an Italian coffee bar.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah\, that's interesting James. Cause I could say the same for my family, you know, on dinner parties when they had people over.I remember my mum had a fake gold tray and she'd bring that out and we had the coffee percolator on it and the coffee percolator go to choo choo ch choo, you know, and put the coffee into the cups for the men, very delicately.

James Harper: But Jonathan, that's why I think you, at the beginning of the episode, feel outraged. When coffee goes back to the price, it originally was.You know, back in the time of the early 17th century with the French in the cafe per cup, of the wigs stockings, an expensive exclusive product that you would enjoy very, very occasionally. So it starts not become a part of your life, your mother's life, your mother's mother life anymore. It becomes something exclusive and we react emotionally to that.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah\, I'm with you on that\, James.

James Harper: but it was the suffering of human beings that brought coffee into our daily lives and help shape our identity.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***That is what value chains are all about. If you have to drive down value at one end, then you really have to drive it down at the other. And that’s what they’ve done.

Musical Interlude

James Harper: So, Jonathan early 1700s covered from Yemen coming in at about $13.50. You fast forward, 30 years, coffee is produced in a slave system in Suriname, and it's about $5 a pound. And if you fast forward another hundred years to like, you know, the middle of the 1800s, what does the coffee price become?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***At that time It's down to around $2 a pound.

James Harper: So what happens to get the coffee price from about $5 down to $2 a pound in a hundred years? Are we making even more slave plantations and making them even more horrific?

Professor Jonathan Morris: We are making many more coffee plantations, some of which are staffed by slave labor, but we're also just seeing a massive expansion in the production of coffee, but a shift in where that coffee is being produced.So by the 1900s, the vast majority, so 90% of the world's coffee as being produced in Latin America and of that, the overwhelming majority is being produced by one single country. And that country is Brazil.

James Harper: Jonathan, what is the story we're going to be exploring in the next episode?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***The transformation of coffee from a colonial good to what I would call an industrial product. And above all what we're seeing from that is the effect of scale. We're going to see the way that coffee farming becomes hugely increased, both in volume, but also in the size of the coffee farms, we are going to see the ways in which the market for coffee has massively increased in particularly the United States, but above all, we're going to see that there's another side to that story. What's destroyed in that story the environmental costs that enable us to get that price down once more.

Musical Interlude

James Harper: So thank you for listening to the second episode of a history of coffee.

Professor Jonathan Morris: Yeah. Thank you very much. I hope it wasn't too dark for you

James Harper: and Jonathan, you know, this episode was created out of having notes, five hours of conversations between us. And one thing I really wanted to cover, but I couldn't find a place for it in the episode was the British, but we're here now. So tell me. What did they do?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***The British took the Island of Ceylon\, which is today is known as Sri Lanka and filled it with coffee farms. And it wasn't a nice story. Lot of people, one way or another died.

James Harper: I've also heard a statistic that at one point Sri Lanka back in the 19th century was the largest coffee producer in the world.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Yeah\, there is a point in the 1860s that Sri Lanka is actually the leading coffee producer in the world.

James Harper: And what's kind of extraordinary to me. Is that, I mean, have you ever had a Sri Lankan coffee?

Professor Jonathan Morris: I've never knowingly had a coffee from Sri Lanka, James.

James Harper: Yeah, me neither. So Jonathan, you and I, we're going to be hopping on an Instagram live session where we will be talking about the British in Sri Lanka and how coffee got there, how it became so popular. Why so many people died in the production of this coffee and ultimately why coffee left Sri Lanka

Professor Jonathan Morris: It's one of those stories of coffee. That's not well known at all. And yet it actually is a, a really compelling and important element of coffee's history.

James Harper: And if you want to follow that, then follow me on Instagram @filterstoriespodcast, and Jonathan?

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***I am @coffeehistoryjm

James Harper: and we'll be doing that Instagram live show in the next couple of weeks.And there's a link in the show notes to our social media.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***I already\, of course have up on my sites a link to coffee, global history, my book.

James Harper: This podcast was produced by myself and Jonathan and I wrote and played the piano music that you're listening to.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***Please do\, go and help others. Find the show by leaving a review on Apple podcasts. We'll just tell them over a cup of coffee.

James Harper: Thanks so much. And Jonathan, I'll speak to you and I'll speak to you dear listener in the next episode.

***Professor Jonathan Morris:***And I’m looking to it already James

Musical interlude

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