Friday, January 30, 2015

History of Coffee ~ Part 4

Brazil has been known for their coffee for decades. What most people don't know is that years ago in 1880 a boom/bust cycle was put into motion in this country's coffee crop. Because this is a cash crop, (meaning the crop's sole purpose is to return a profit), the country can grow large amounts and see immediate profit. When America and Europe couldn't buy all the coffee Brazil was harvesting there was a huge economical crash that shook not only Brazil, but other countries as well. In fact, the stock market crash of 1910 followed closely behind the coffee market crash.
The president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas, decided that the only way his country could bounce back from this devastating economic collapse was to burn the excess crops of beans. This would in a way, restart the market and give farmers an edge again. Unfortunately, this did not work as President Vargas had hoped.
Around the time Brazil was desperately needing to sell its quality coffee, America came up with instant coffee. Coffee only by name (it was made more from coffee flavored powder than actual roasted beans) became popular in America by the Navy's advertisement in World War II. The Navy created a buzz with its "Cup 'o Joe" slogan. "Joe" was every sailor's friend, he helped them stay awake long hours on watch. He helped them stay warm while running training exercises on a windy deck in the middle of the Pacific. Every sailor needed a "Cup 'o Joe". This created a market in which advertising became more important than taste.
Though Brazil was growing coffee by the truckload, America used less real coffee, and more coffee substitutes. Brazil wouldn't see an upswing in the market until 1950.
While the coffee in America grew more tasteless, the advertising became more enticing. Folgers used the lovable character, "Mrs. Olson", in their commercials, ensuring women their husbands would love their coffee (and them) so much more when they used Folgers Mountain Grown.
At this time Sanka, the very first decaffeinated, coffee came on the market. Instead of drinking coffee to stay awake, people could now drink coffee to relax.
Finally in 1950, due to terrible weather conditions in Brazil, coffee prices soared. This prompted a congressional hearing in America. Officials met to discuss the effect of coffee on the economy. It was resolved that coffee was no longer just a commodity, instead, it represents the lives of millions of people.

This ignited a windfall of questions. How can we better protect the farm from which our coffee comes from? How can we ensure the farmer is able to do his job? How can we get the best coffee for the best price without taking away from the lives of those who cultivate and prepare the green beans?

Join us next time when we discuss how the boom/bust cycle of coffee came to be and the crop's market value throughout the years.

Monday, January 26, 2015

History of Coffee ~ Part 3

We last left off at the Industrial Revolution and the need for coffee to keep workers awake.
Today we pick up at the Gold Rush. When people caught wind of gold in the west, there was a race to the hills and of course they needed their coffee to stay awake at the sluice box. 
James Folger, the youngest of three brothers who had come west to seek his fortune. He realized quickly, however, that he could make his fortune by bringing coffee to the miners working day and night. He would roast and grind coffee, then package and haul it by the pound to those at the mines. A fresh egg would sell for as much as thirty cents on the trail during that time, so as you might imagine, a whole pound of coffee brought a much higher price. 
On the tails of this increase in coffee consumption were rich investors, trading in coffee as a family business. The Sandborne brothers were up and coming coffee investors who developed the concept of pre-staled coffee. Folgers and other companies like them, roasted and packaged their ground coffee specifically for the consumer, but the Sandborne brothers went one step further with their Mocha Java brand. This pre-staled product allowed for quicker packaging after roasting, which meant more coffee on the shelves. 
One of the Sandborne brothers took his daughter to their coffee plantation in Brazil for a tour of the production. Upon seeing the great misfortune of the farmers and how poorly they were treated, she wrote in her journal, "Someone must do something." 
It is no secret that fair market goods are dedicated to giving the farmer or industrial worker a fair price for their labor. Sandborne's daughter imagined a market in which this would be the normal treatment for each laborer, whether in the field, the warehouse, or the office. 

Join us next time when we discuss America's consumption during wartime and how instant coffee got its start.