(This article will be periodically updated)
Roasters view trough the lenses of Coffee – summary
Dear international friend of Coffee, here you get a little summary of the intentions and the background of this site. My name is Alex Kunkel and I am interested in all aspects of coffee both actual and history.
Looking trough the lenses of coffee you cannot write the history new, but there are many insights about the long way of globalization since the 15. century. Reporting on coffee in media is mostly about a “hipp” and “stylish” drink what is superficial considering that coffee plays no role in the economy-part of the newspapers. It is the second worth commodity for the southern countries in world-trade! So let us look behind the scene.
Coffee also matters as a history indicator of west-eastern cultural exchange. Through the coffee-lenses you may get another sight on islam and can imagine how eastern societys contributed some values to the west and the worlds cultural heritage altogether. In opposition to the “Clash of civilizations” there is a famous book of Trojanow/Hoskoté titled: “No fight at all – cultures don’t fight, they come together!”:
“In fact the arab thinkers prepared the way of sacularization and put elements to the rising of public what we ascribe naturally the european history as a triumph of enlightenment.”
The bean has concoured the world
- After water coffee is the world’s beverage number one!
- Its the second importend world commodity after oil for southern countries.
- Coffe ist cultivated in about 70 countries and regions north and south of equator.
- The main sorts are arabica (Highland grown, 60%) and Robusta (Lowlands, 40%)
Coffee pushes Globalization
Coffee trade was an engine of Globalization, like other colonial commodities too. Against a common point of view globalization has a long history since 1500 and long before, speeding up with global dramatic for hunger, poverty and environmental deseas to the end of the 20. century. 1973 the “Chicago-Boys” startet in the slipstream of Pinochet-Dictatorship in Chile their neocon program. 1990 the “Washinton Consensus” marked a next step of strangulation of world economy through the leading industrialized nations, organized by capitalist agencies like World Bank Group and the Monetary fund.
In the same period we could notice the beginning of worldwide fairtrade movement with his first and important product: Coffee! – Creating alternate world trade. See FAIRTRADE
The heritage of european colonialism, especially in africa, finds its symbolic summary in the term KIBOKO. This is the actuel name of dried robusta-coffee in eastern Africa. But Kiboko is also the name of that awful Hippo-whip, used to beat the blacks to plantation work. Kiboko means Hippo in Swaheli. And Kiboko are namend many actual Tourist-Agencies, showing the rich whites, the mzungus, the land, because the Hippos are so attractive. What cynicizm! You can get more money with that sort of tourism than with coffee, which the tourists enjoy in a “trendy” way at home.
The great topics
- Colonialism/ Imperialism
- Early globalisation and beginning of agrobusiness
- Coffeehouses as new public place in orient and oczident
- Cash-crop as export revenues for underdevelopped countries
- The misery of smallholder coffee-farmers
- The fairtrade-movement
- Stock-marketing with agro-commodities, commodity futures and derivates
- Second importance after oil and 100 million involved people
- Climate Change threats coffee-cultivation
- Coffee-cultivation threats the climate
this all marks the way of coffee in economic, ecologic, political, cultural und social regard.
The coffee-history may be understood as a great culture-historical painting. The coffee historian Steven Topic from University of California/ Irvine remarks:
Studying larger theoretical trends through the lens of coffee might seem to cloud the issue, but this is not an exercise in “coffee-fetishism” nor a trendy effort to cash in a “Starbucks Revolution”. Coffee is a commodity worthy of serious attention because of the central and longstanding place it has held in the world economy an in the lives of millions of people… Essentially, poor countries have grown coffee for the rich ones.”
As a beverage
Coffee always accompanied all thinkers, Revoluzzers and resistors. Coffeehouses were the “seminaries of insurrection” – so called by Charles II. in England 1680. William H. Ukers said 1935 in his classical book “All about coffee”:
“Wherever he was introduced, his meaning was revolution. He was the most radical beverage of the world, because his function was to initiate man to think. And when people began to think, they endangered the tyrants.”
Progress since the 16. century took place at first in brain. Therby the coffehouse was a necessary place and coffee an imperative beverage. So the culture of coffee-drinking may be read as a part oft the social-and culture history of the modern world.
From Prohibition to world’s beverage
- coffee prohibition in Islam in the 16. an 17. century
- the suppression oft coffeehouses under Charles II. in England
- the broad police-snoopery in paris coffee-houses an shut-down them before and after the revolution
- the ban of coffee under Frederic the Great, in other german regions too and in the rest of Europe
coffee and his houses captured a strong place in everyday- life worldwide. The “Café” as place of a new civil public and communication-place is often mentioned in the book of Jürgen Habermas “Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit”.
The view on history of orient and oczident
through the lenses of coffee cleares some interesting issues of both sides and their cultural history, the limits of european centered point of view, the cultural roaring of Europe by analysing orient as the pure demonic and “the Other” of itself – as the ultimate stranger. Coffee crosses culture, history and economy since 1500 as a beverage of modernisation.
German poet Goethe mentioned also coffee, when he wrote: “Magnificent came the orient / over the mediteranean …” and the Brothers Grimm told us: “Coffee was the last, great gift of the orient bringing to oczident.” Today nothing magnificent comes from overseas to europe, it’s just seen dangerous and the european states ought to get military efforts of a frontier-agency (FRONTEX) stroking it back!
The turkish Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk said in an interview:
“Habermas says, the public is the place, where politics starts. Such a place we find in the turkish coffee houses. Thats the reasen why I wrote about the coffee-house-culture in Istanbul. The discussions about politics in the coffee-houses should be forbidden by absurd arguments like: coffee would bei unhealthy.”
The print-revolution of Gutenberg got her social power by the free reading of newspapers in the coffee houses. Voltaire, Diderot and others got their quill and paper-sheets in the »Procope«. They were editorial offices, clubs of science, offices of merchants. Stocks grew up and insurance bureaus. Revolutions were planned in it and started in front of it.
Later on in 19. Century coffee became “the grease of industrialisation” in the bodies of the workers. The poor and hungry handcraftsmen got thin coffee instead of good nutrition.
Caffein as an environmental marker
The fact oft longstanding coffee-consumption is actually used in environment-scientists. Caffein marks sewage caused by man. Speaking about coffee as the source of this caffeine, the scientist remarks:
“The usability of a marker reflects on its continous use. A view in history show us, that a society, once exponated to caffeinated nutrition, will never forego that, its more than a fashion-style. Prohibition failed and for getting cheep coffee life was ventured. This will be proofed by examples.”
He notices the smuggel at belgium/german frontier after world war II when taxes in Germany were extremely high. It took about fifty dead people.
Coffee-Taxes and monopolisation
The West-German Taxes, who caused the smuggel, were lowered til 1953 in steps, so that consumption increased rapidly. But soon the market was not yet served by thousands of small roasters, but some great coffee-players. The german coffee-tax amounts 1 billion € a year.
The 5 global players in coffee market worldwide are serving 50% market charge. The green coffee sector is part of the finance driven raw material speculation.
Coffee is communication
Coffee got a synonym word for communication. Nobody thinks about, how the internet-café could be called differently. The first webcam in the world-wide-web showed the state of a coffee-pot (Universty of Cambridge, 1991). The Logo of the software-company Java is a steaming coffee-pot. Java was the general name for coffee in the times when that isle of indonesia was the main coffee-supplier. The software-parts of Java are called: beans!