As I take my first sip out of the black mug I’ve been clasping in my hands for the last five minutes I can’t help but raise my brow at the intriguingly pleasant sharpness, similar to a dry white wine, that begins buzzing my taste buds almost immediately. I began thinking, where could this intriguing coffee bean be from? This particular cup of coffee is different than any I have tasted before. After much inquisition and a trip to the manager’s office at the Caribou Coffee I was informed that the particular bean that had been tickling my taste buds for the last 12 minutes, as I scarfed down a chocolate croissant, was an Arabica bean indigenous to Minas Gerais, Brazil. You have probably enjoyed a cup of coffee from some of Minas Gerais finest coffee beans on numerous occasions being that it’s the largest growing state in Brazil accounting for about 50 percent of the entire Brazilian coffee production (Specialty Coffees of Brazil). What exactly does it mean to be a coffee bean from Brazil compared to, lets say, a bean from Columbia? What are the economic implications associated with this bean that has traveled over 4,000 miles from a small family owned coffee farm in Brazil to my black steamy mug at a local coffee house in Ann Arbor, Michigan?
Coffee has long been a staple in the Brazilian economy dating back to the mid 1800’s. By the time the coffee surge arrived, Brazil was already free from the harsh grip of colonialism, therefore enabling the start of the coffee production industry which would serve as a crucial component of the economy over the next few hundred years (Hamre). As Americans we often get caught up in our own economic complications ignoring the intriguing economic structures of less developed nations such as Brazil. These nations rely on Americans addiction to coffee for their economy to thrive.
Brazil is not the only nation whose economy heavily relies on coffee. Columbia produces about 12 percent of the world’s coffee. (Hamre) For me, Columbia coffee is just as delicious as the Brazilian cup of Joe I enjoyed earlier just with slightly brighter acidity and a heavier body with an equally charming intense aromatic. Who would think that your daily two dollar hot wake-me-up treat, that you purchase without thinking where it came from or the impact it has on the lives of others, would be the second largest commodity traded in the world? Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer accounting for about one third of the global coffee production. It’s amazing that one country can account for such a large portion of any product consumed in the world. In Brazil there are over 5 million Brazilians employed in the harvesting of over 3 million coffee plants. (Specialty Coffees of Brazil). Wow, that’s as if every resident in the state of Colorado worked in the coffee production industry. It’s an unbelievable concept that a daily beverage can be the source of work and income for so many people across the world. Weather it be those working on the plantations, in the distribution channels, the coffee shop owners scattered across the globe, or even the commodities traders evaluating futures on wall street; the coffee industry provides so much more for millions of people than just a hot, bitter, addictive pick me up beverage.
“Producing Regions”. Specialty Coffees of Brazil. 18 September 2011
“Brazilian Coffee Beans”. CoffeeResearch.org. 18 September 2011
Hamre, Bonnie, “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee”. About.com. 18 September 2011