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How coffee took over the world (theatlantic.com)
167 points by neonate 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 146 comments



It's a shame an article like this doesn't tell the economic enslavement story. Ethiopia and other poor countries are unable to reap profits from the coffee they grow thanks to extremely restrictive WTO tariffs that essentially prevent them from processing it before they export it. This means they're forced to export raw beans for pennies, and they'll never really make much money doing so.

It turns out coffee growing countries only receive about 8% of the total coffee revenue annually and Germany is actually the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world, despite never growing a single bean.

Schoolyard bullying, on a global scale.


> Ethiopia and other poor countries are unable to reap profits from the coffee they grow thanks to extremely restrictive WTO tariffs that essentially prevent them from processing it before they export it. This means they're forced to export raw beans for pennies, and they'll never really make much money doing so.

As someone who has roasted my own coffee for 20 years, I'm confused about what you're saying. What are these "raw beans" that the Ethopians are forced to export?

I do buy green coffee beans from Ethopia, and have about 25 pounds of Ethopian at home right now. Are these the raw beans you're talking about? I certainly wouldn't want to buy coffee that was roasted in Ethopia; it would be awfully stale by the time it gets here.

I mostly buy dry process beans, occasionally wet process. I've just never heard the term "raw beans". Are you talking about raw unprocessed coffee cherry? I didn't know anyone exports those as is. I thought they would go bad in shipping, and no one would buy them. And the sheer bulk and weight of raw coffee cherry should make it more economical to do a dry process or wet process at the source, to separate the valuable beans from the husk.

I do buy a lot of my green beans from Sweet Maria's. They have a Farm Gate program where they work directly with coffee growers to make sure they get a fair price - generally more than the "Fair Trade" pricing.

If you can help educate me on what I'm missing here, I would appreciate it - thanks!


I also don’t understand where this is going:

> coffee growing countries only receive about 8% of the total coffee revenue

If we look at the price of, for example, white flour from the supermarket, it should be immediately obvious that grain farmers are receiving some tiny fraction of the total net value of all baked-goods / pasta / pizza / etc sold annually.

It’s not immediately obvious that this is bad or unfair.


Yes it's misleading, I suspect purposefully. The cost of green unroasted coffee cannot be compared with "global coffee revenue" ... roasting makes coffee lose 30%, then you add packaging, shipping, labor to distribute ... finally the cost of coffee cup adds in service, rent and more ... you buy a kilo of green arabica for $4 after roasting and shipping you're on $8 ... so sell a cup in a cafe let's say you make 20-100x per kilo yet cafes are still the thinnest margin business and most go bankrupt.

It's equivalent to saying the oil producing companies only get x% of global car sales. Simply, ridiculous statement.


> I suspect purposefully

Please don't do that here. This is in the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. Your comment would be just fine without that bit (and the final bit).


> It's equivalent to saying the oil producing companies only get x% of global car sales.

Cars are not really made of oil, gasoline is. And this was probably not the best of examples. In most oil companies extraction/exploration (raw material) and refining (processed product) actually split the profits pretty evenly, all things considered. Marketing (gas stations) gets pretty much the breadcrumbs and relies for profit more on selling Coke and sandwiches than actual gas.

This is unlike most other cases where the raw materials are worth far less than the processed ones, and the bulk of the profit goes to the final manufacturer rather than the raw material exporter.


It's funny, if you watch a show about farmers in the US - when they talk about farm product prices you are like - huh, how is this product so CHEAP?

Seriously - the great increase in wheat prices brings it to 8 cents per pound in the US.

And my avocado whole wheat toast still costs $10-15 with taxes and tip.


> I certainly wouldn't want to buy coffee that was roasted in Ethopia; it would be awfully stale by the time it gets here.

But if Germany is the 4th largest exporter in the world as the parent comment said, apparently plenty of people have no problem buying stale coffee from them.


I see that note in the comment, but I don't understand how Germany can be a coffee exporter when they don't grow coffee there. They can only export as much coffee as they import.

This sounds like a warehousing and shipping operation to me. Calling Germany an exporter seems like calling an Amazon fulfillment center a "manufacturer" of the products they ship to customers. Or calling Sweet Maria's or Coffee Bean Corral or Happy Mug coffee "growers".

But maybe I don't understand the terminology, and I am definitely out of the loop on mass market coffee.

Actually, Tom of Sweet Maria's did try to grow his own coffee here in California, with hilarious results. Behold, Finca West Oakland:

https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/finca-west-oakland-gr...


Germany is a roasted coffee exporter. They import green coffee beans from developing countries and process them into various coffee products (roasted beans, ground coffee, soluble crystals). Because they are transforming a raw material through an industrial process, they end up with a new product which they sell to the world (export).

What might be confusing is Germany also re-exports green beans to other countries, at a markup. This is a much smaller % compared to the coffee products they export.

Does this clarify things?


That does, thank you very much for the detailed explanation. I was only looking at part of the picture.


The comment I was referring to was pretty explicit in saying they don't grow beans, meaning they've likely got a big chunk of their coffee economy involved in selling "stale" coffee. It's probably relatively fresh within the EU, but I've definitely seen more than my fair share of European roasted coffee thousands of miles and many shipping weeks away from the roaster.


Companies in Germany, like Switzerland, Netherlands, US etc import green coffee from around the world, roast it, mix various types and origins and qualities to produce commercial recipes that have a stable taste, then grind it and pack it in air sealed packs (as soon as possible after roasting). Being an import hub for green coffee allows the mixing, essential for commercial coffee. Coffee producing countries usually put duties on imports of green coffee to protect local production. They could import roasted coffee to then mix with local production, but that would have to be air/sealed in bulk, which i imagine is quite costly. And I suspect the market for single origin coffee is still too small to allow economically viable operations. Once roasted and sealed from the effect of air oxidation and humidity, coffee can last quite a while, certainly enough to be exported throughout the world.


I think people also underestimate the efficiency of supply chains. Not quite the same thing because of scale, but one of the best places in the US to get oysters is restaurant in Denver, CO. While Denver is not near water, it is near the center of the US and gets fresh oysters from both coasts.

I'm not sure many people are air-shipping coffee for freshness, but Germany could easily provide 'fresh' roasted coffee for anywhere in Europe.


What’s the restaurant name? I’m in Denver and love oysters


Jax Fish House downtown. I used to think it was just a localish place, but I've mentioned 'good oysters in Denver' to vendors who travel a lot and they all immediately say Jax. Admittedly, I haven't been to Jax in quite a few years since moving to the coast, but people I talk with still say it's great.

https://www.jaxfishhouse.com/lodo/


Cool, thank you! I walk by it all the time, never occurred to me that it might actually be really good.


> I certainly wouldn't want to buy coffee that was roasted in Ethopia; it would be awfully stale by the time it gets here.

Couldn't they process and export instant coffee without any problem?


Assuming they could, who would want to buy that? You do not go for high quality Ethiopian beans to then make instant coffee…


> Assuming they could, who would want to buy that?

People who want instant coffee?

> You do not go for high quality Ethiopian beans to then make instant coffee…

Ok... can you use the lower quality ones?


>> I certainly wouldn't want to buy coffee that was roasted in Ethopia; it would be awfully stale by the time it gets here.

What do you mean? Coffee gets vacuum packed and shipped all over the world already. I must have some coffee at home that was roasted and ground months ago - how is that a problem? It's just coffee.


You must be able to see how someone who roasts their own beans and has a preferred sourcing vendor and someone who says "it's just coffee" are basically not even interacting with the same thing at that point, right? That's right up there with "it's just a car" and "it's just a computer". It's either your thing or it isn't.


Fair enough. But I feel like 90% of coffee drinkers wouldn't see or know the difference(just looking at the packs of ground coffee at the supermarket, most of them have been roasted 4+ weeks ago or more, so I can't believe a regular customer would care). Therefore the transportation of ground coffee and its possible staleness from Ethiopia cannot be the issue, it must be something else.


Generally I agree. I don't know enough to really weigh in, but I suspect some combination of shipping logistics and trade agreements are the cause.


It’s not a problem for you because you’re not a coffee snob.


>I certainly wouldn't want to buy coffee that was roasted in Ethopia; it would be awfully stale by the time it gets here.

This is the play: hide the profound injustice in an offhand quip. If exporting from Germany is not a problem, why not Ethiopia?

Though, I suspect what would happen is that coffee roasted in Ethiopia would be somehow worth less than German-roasted. Ethiopians would recoup some of the profit that they're missing, but other ways would be found to shortchange them. The root of the issue is he undervaluation of Ethiopian labor and resources so as to secure profit and affordability further down the line.


> Though, I suspect what would happen is that coffee roasted in Ethiopia would be somehow worth less than German-roasted

If it was ever done, it would cost 5x or 10x more, thanks to the heavy sanctions placed on processed coffee exported from Ethiopia, but not from Germany.

As another example, I saw endless fields of palm and cocoa plantations all through West Africa. Famously Japan allows imports of raw cocoa with a 0\% tax, though they tax finished chocolate products at over 280\%. This means Africa will never be able to sell processed cocoa products there, and are forced to be content selling raw beans for a tiny fraction of what they could be sold for if processed.


Even without sanctions, even with equal infrastructure. They always find a way, not just to protect European profits, but to punish African ambition.


If you can help educate me on what I'm missing here, I would appreciate it - thanks!

Most coffee consumers are not relying on locally/home roasted beans. They buy instant, or pre-ground for use in a drip. Ethiopia is missing out on that part of the market.


[flagged]


Well, you are right, and I am sorry. On the bright side, perhaps my comments helped spark an interesting discussion with people more knowledgeable than me.


True enough.


Apart from the need of roasting coffee close to where the demand is to ensure "freshness", the other main reason that most large roasting operations are in Europe and US is "mixing". Most commercial coffees that you buy at a supermarket or even at coffee shops are a mix of various varieties. The provenance and ratios in the final mix change continuously to adapt to different taste (that may vary from harvest to harvest in the same estate), yields and prices, with the aim of maintaining a stable taste year on year and a stable cost. So even large coffee producing countries can not produce the right mix, and usually choose to penalise coffee imports (with duties) to protect local farmers.


Ironically single-origin coffees (or chocolates, etc.) are vastly more interesting to most people because they are so unique and can change unpredictably. There are ones with tasting notes resembling oranges, tomatoes, etc.


True. But that unpredictable change in tasting notes is the enemy of commercial packaged coffee: your box of illy, carte noir, maxwell house, nescafe, nespresso MUST taste the same every time, and MUST have a stable cost of raw material (apart from baseline coffee prices fluctuations). The same happens for chocolate and tea (lipton's and twining's teabags can be a mix of 20-30 tea varieties that change continuously)


Just to add to gpresot's comment, every large brand has this issue. McDonald's products need to taste exactly the same around the world and most of their brand's value lies in the ability to create a stable, unchanging product that is still attractive to their market segments.

Buying single-origin, and accepting the instability that comes with it, by necessity requires microbranding.


In my experience, McDonald's burgers taste noticeably different in the US and Canada. So I think it's a per-country thing (especially when, e.g. Canadian McDonald's only uses Canadian beef).


Only good single origin is better, one of the main reason for blending origins is to hide flaws. So only a small selection of coffee/chocolate etc will taste good on its own.


I doubt "most people" want each bag of their coffee brand to taste different.


For the people that think this is a dumb take, he's got a point. There's a roaster in my town that tries to pay a more fair price for the coffee he buys. He has a list of exactly how much he pays for the coffee which everyone can read. He's written a bit on the economics of coffee here https://timwendelboe.no/2012/11/coffee-is-cheap-part-2/?v=c2...


How are they supposed to "process" it? Every business customer (cafe, chain, large company for their office coffee makers) who knows what they are doing, buys these raw beans. In Italy, at least in proper places, coffee is roasted SAME day as it is served, or previous evening worst case. You suggest doing it months in advance, then ship roasted beans from Ethiopia? Who's going to drink what results?


That’s interesting. The rule of thumb in Australia for speciality coffee is to rest it for a few days (around 2-4) in a bag or container with a one way valve, so it can degas before using it.


I would bet money that the vast majority of coffee consumed globally is purchased from another entity and already roasted more than 1 week before.


That's totally true! That's the main reason why most coffee we drink is such a trash. But, roasting it months in advance vs days in advance will bring a whole new dimension to that.


Here's a comprehensive analysis of coffee as a product: https://bridgeit.me/coffee. The value chain section is interesting, but the tie-in to the refugee crisis is what got me:

"I became friends with an Oromo family that had to flee from Ethiopia. They were from a region close to the city Jimma in southwestern Ethiopia, the cradle of coffee. Their land and coffee plantations were taken from them and the husband and his friends were jailed when they protested[...] But of course, the coffee we consume everyday and without which ‘we can’t survive’ has to be produced somewhere…"


I don't understand - according to this article, the tariffs are non-existent for the US & Canada [0], and according to this report from the USDA, the Ethiopian government controls the coffee market and exports [1].

Further, 8% of what, exactly? I bet tree farms get only a small percentage of the revenue of printer paper or cardboard boxes. Without this being defined, your comment kinda becomes meaningless. With a definition, it would clarify your comment for many.

[0] - http://www.intracen.org/coffee-guide/the-markets-for-coffee/...

[1] - https://apps.fas.usda.gov/newgainapi/api/report/downloadrepo...


This reminds me of the scene from War Machine. The general is asking some consultant why they can't grow corn or wheat since they have loads of fertile land. The guys said the exact thing you did. The WTO disallows them from doing so by entering into the export market and competing with American farmers.

So they grow heroin instead haha!


The EU and several different countries levy tariffs on processed (roasted or soluble) coffee.

The US and Canada do not. (I was really expecting to see that the US and Canada did) As a result, I'm able to buy custom roasted and custom packaged at the farm beans and get them on the shelf in the US in a few days. Local roasters have zero real advantage, other than appeal to the enthusiast and perhaps some "secret process" that gives a unique taste to their product.

Source: http://www.intracen.org/coffee-guide/the-markets-for-coffee/...


[citation needed] on the tarriffs. The EU duty on imported roasted non-decaf coffee (code 0901 21) is 7.5%: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/taric/measures.js...

That's not zero, but it doesn't sound extremely restrictive either.


Don't countries like ethopia skim the foreign currency sales of things like coffee in various ways (ie, low official exchange rate, then elites can resell at higher black market rate and give farmers the less valuable local currency).

This is a common issue in a lot of developing countries - and also makes investment harder because it can be very difficult to get your foreign currency profits out (elites only want to buy at fake low rate - if they had to sell at it they'd lose their profit).


> It's a shame an article ...

It's an article: that is not its purpose. How much can you say on the multi-century history of a topic in a few hundred words?

Maybe try the book referenced, or the may dozens of other hundred books written on the topic.


That’s disingenuous - the article’s title makes it clear to be attempt to summarise coffee history.


It's coffee history summarized to under one thousand words.


>economic enslavement story

This is enraging.

Please do share any articles/data/documentaries so that people can know what really is going on with this multi-billion dollar industry.


Checkout this book [1]. It contains myriad of sources and footnotes about how the developed world, WTO, World Bank etc function when you live outside. I.e. Undeveloped countries are slaves to keep the rich countries rich.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Aid-Other-Dirty-Business-Intentions/d...


It's true but it's always interesting how we bring this up in farmer trades often, but not often in the tech space, when a large majority of us on this site have made a lot of money off the backs of cheap labor.


That was a good read. There's an interesting discussion (and article) for those who prefer tea over coffee :)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16129454


Just started drinking tea with freshly distilled water. So much smoother taste! :)


This is a great video on the history of Coffee in Ethiopia, and how it was subsequently spread throughout the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1Uj6RPbUXQ


How common are "coffee breaks" still in businesses? I've never worked for a company with mandatory breaks (coffee or otherwise), but maybe that is because I am engaged in more mental that physical labor?

Ironically, my company does have a number of fitness facilities on campus and it is entirely kosher to take an hour plus break each day to workout, i.e., engage in physical labor.


A very common ritual in Sweden is the activity “Fika” which is essential time to drink strong coffee and eat cake at work. Usuall mid morning. Said with tongue in cheek: it’s mandatory.


In Finland too. The ironic thing is that most companies worldwide would probably claim that coffee breaks help employees share experience and news of what is going on, but in my experience in Finland, no one actually talks to each other during the coffee break. Everyone just enters, maybe nods in greeting to their coworkers, grabs their coffee, drinks it in silence, and then leaves.


Aren’t Finns famous for avoiding small talk?


Sounds like I'm moving to Finland!


Here in France it depends on the colleagues, some are gathering during the coffee break to complete the crossword of the day together and some non work-related chat, but some just do it like you describe. But I've seen that managers are more likely to talk about work, but mostly to complain about other managers.

(of course all it was pre-covid outbreak, now everyone work remotely)


And It usually correlates with pause cloppe (cigarette smoking) time. But yeah , it happens pretty organicaly.


The Finnish coffee break sounds like it was directed by Aki Kaurismäki.

Life imitates art.


Not mandatory, but I know a lot of construction jobs have “smoko”, which is a short break before and after lunch for a smoke or coffee


It makes more sense when teamwork involves physically working on the same thing. With information work, which most of us do, there is no real need for a specific coffee break.


I'm aware of people whose work social interactions revolve largely around coffee rituals.


Breaks are legally required. I'm guessing tech companies get away with saying employees have "unlimited" breaks. My company runs a manufacturing & order fulfillment facility. Our employees get breaks on a schedule.


Most tech companies have salaried employees and they're usually "exempt" from those requirements for breaks and other things.

Salary vs. hourly doesn't determine exempt vs. non exempt status, technically, but in practice it becomes that


Worth repeating from the bottom of the article:

"Climate scientists estimate that at least half of the acreage now producing coffee—and an even greater proportion in Latin America—will be unable to support the plant by 2050, making coffee one of the crops most immediately endangered by climate change."


Would any acreage not now producing coffee be newly-able to support the plant due to climate change?


One of the major factors in growing high quality coffee is altitude. Coffee beans grown higher altitudes are harder and denser because they have more sugar. The coffee cherries have taken longer to ripen because the soil is less rich and there’s more drainage at altitude. Longer ripening times means more sugar and more flavour compounds.

If climate change makes these (already harsh) mountainous regions indispensable to the coffee shrubs, then we may be forced to grow coffee in lowland regions where the quality will not be as good.


What exactly does 'not as good' mean in this context? Sure for people who roast their own beans at home they will notice a difference, but would someone who drinks a regular cup of chain coffee like Starbucks be able to tell? I'd imagine the better quality coffees will go up in price, but lowland areas would take over for bulk coffee used in chains.


It seems that they are asking whether, due to global warming, some other countries much further north may be able to grow coffee at the appropriate height (while it is now impossible because they are too cold). For instance, in advanced stages of global warming it may be possible to grow coffee in northern Italy.


The US has a lot of mountains too in various different climates.


Yes, that's exactly right. Sure, if it gets warmer than one place currently just right will be too warm, but might there be another place too cold which is now just right? Although maybe there aren't enough places of the right altitude at the right elevations, with the right rainfall in new conditions.

Also, 'he,' not 'they.' :-)


I think coffee requires more skills/equipment (cost) than tea. It's much harder to create good coffee than good tea.


Cezve and grinder? That's not a costly equipment.


If you want consistency that grinder is going to cost a lot. There are diminishing returns and $60 grinder will get you 80% of the way. But going from 80% to 99% you're looking at a price increase of about $1800. You're obviously not going to buy that equipment for your home though.


Who are you kidding? Of course we are. I have a $2000 grinder on the way.

Edit: I don't buy that a $60 dollar grinder will get you 80% of the way. The output of such cheap grinders that I have seen have very poor consistency. You're looking at low hundreds to get anything decent and even then you will have very clear differences when matched against a top end grinder.


On the continuum from preground coffee to cafe quality pour over, a $60 wilfa burr griner will get you 80% in my opinion. You'll have days when the brew comes out very well, some days it's disappointing. The biggest advantage when going from no grinder to cheap grinder is that you can buy quality beans rather than supermarket coffee and that time from grinding to brewing is minimized, so you lose less flavour. For me, that's 80% of the value for 20% of the effort/money.


Ah, ok sure. I agree.


> I don't buy that a $60 dollar grinder will get you 80% of the way.

Is a used Baratza Encore much more expensive than that? A new one is US$ 140:

* https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-coffee-grinder/


Honestly for pour over methods I think a Baratza Encore or similar is plenty fine and will get you probably 90% of the way. For coffee snobs like me and you, maybe that is only 50% :).

Obviously espresso is completely different, and agreed, you'd have to be at the mid-hundreds to get to a barely good-enough starting point.


I'm using something like $20 grinder I guess, I bought it 15 years ago and it works fine for me.

That said, I prefer to buy grinded coffee. It's not perfect, but miles ahead of instant coffee. That's perfect combination of time/price/taste for me.


It's still equipment, and tea is more 'fire and forget' to make.


Not really. Tea is oxydized in pans or with steam, cured, aged etc.


I do believe the OP meant "to prepare for drinking", not "to prepare into the sellable product".


It's just as easy to prepare coffee. Greek or Turkish coffee is the easiest to brew, one just needs a pot.


What about Instant Coffee?


Instant coffee is no substitute for the real stuff.


Instant coffee is a US$30+ billion global market segment, and about half of all coffee drinkers drink instant coffee.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/07/14/almos...


Yes. That doesn't make it a substitute for the real thing. I either use a full ceramic burr grinder and Aeropress setup with some recently-roasted single-origin beans OR instant coffee if I only have a few minutes before I have to leave the house in the morning, in which case I do the full brew later in the day. I don't see them as sustainable substitutes any more than tea and coffee are substitutes.


Yeah, it's more like beer vs wine. Not really substitutes except in the narrow sense of delivering the active ingredient.


Instant coffee can be pretty great. I like the Japanese/Korean brands like UCC and Kanu.


Instant coffee is the real stuff.


I use a mortar and pestle, if I can't grind the beans at my local supermarket.


i used the grider at the grocery store :\


Which is why I'm so astonished Americans make tea so poorly. Tepid water with a tea bag on the side is not the way to brew a cup of tea.


> Tepid water

This is because most American's don't have a kettle (at home or work). I think quite a few Europeans do.

It's also why so many (baking) recipes in the US measure (e.g.) flour in cups/volume: most people don't have scales.


I refuse to believe Americans can't produce a cup of 100 Degree celcius boiling water either at home or at work.


It's not about "can't", it's about "this water is hot enough after microwaving it for 30s, it'll be fine".


Is there a point to the 100 degrees reference? its like saying a lightspeed flashlight


Because the temperature of the water determines how well extraction occurs. Sub-100°C (for black tea) and you get a shitty tasting tea (I like to call it 'herb water').

* https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-brew-tea-water-temperat...

It's similar to coffee (93°C)

* https://www.scaa.org/PDF/resources/golden-cup-standard.pdf


I'll admit I can't. (It boils at 95 C)


what is your geographic elevation? 4500 feet id guess.


I was on a trip to the US last year, and tried the English Breakfast K-Cup in our hotel room. Let's just say I'm not making that mistake again...

I honestly don't know how they make it so bad, here in Europe even if I bought the cheapest box of supermarket tea (around 50c for 20 bags) and dunked it in a cup of warm water for 10 seconds it would taste better.


I find even hot water with tea bag and cold milk does not taste good. In India its usually hot water, tea powder along with milk brewed together. Drink hot.


I think it's cause tea is so much more expensive over here. I can buy a gourmet type of coffee for like 10-15. To get the same level of tea for maybe half the amount of servings I get out of the coffee, it costs the same if not more.

I do like certain types of those gourmet teas where you need a kettle for them. They're great, but I like something warm and I can have it everyday, especially in winter. I simply could not afford that with the teas.


It's probably my lack of experience, but I find tea harder to make correctly. Depending on the tea, should I rinse the leaves ahead of time? How long do I let it steep? How hot should the water be? How much tea should I even use?

For coffee, I pour hot water over my ground coffee until the pot underneath is full of coffee.


That is a very oversimplified way to describe making coffee - and thats just for one method of brewing.

You have so many variations of brewing like pourover, drip, french press, espresso etc. and each of these methods has a ton of individual variables that affect the final product ranging such as water temp, bean freshness, grind coarseness and much more.

I am certainly not a coffee expert (I'm too lazy to actually dive into the world of craft coffee I just drink the free coffee at work) but I do enjoy espresso when I am out and love reading about coffee/brewing


There are two things econcon could've meant by "create" - either what happens before the tea/coffee reaches your shop, or what happens afterwards. I'll go with your interpretation...

I'm a fan of tea, ignorant about coffee.

Tea brewing generally has three variables: amount/proportion of leaves/water, water temperature, brewing time. With coffee, those three are still applicable. And there's a fourth variable: how finely one grinds it, and perhaps a fifth one: whether/what pressure to apply while brewing.

I usually don't even rinse oolongs/greens and it's fine. If you don't rinse your puerh, the first brew is just going to taste like a rinse. No big deal - enjoy the subsequent brews :)


How was it ground? How was it roasted? How hot should your water be?


If anyone is looking for an interesting exploration of coffees history across the globe the book The Devil's Cup by Stewart Allen is a light hearted travelogue that digs into its history and impact on cultures across the centuries.


-And, while taking a break from that (excellent, I might add) book, you could do worse - a lot worse - than picking up Sebastião Salgado's "Scent of a dream", a photographic tour de force documenting how coffee is grown, processed and enjoyed around the world.

Heck, you could do a lot worse than picking up anything by Salgado...


Thank you so much for this recommendation!


Idly wondering, did Coffee really took over the world, or was it really just Caffeine.


Fun fact: in Brazil, "breakfast" is usually called "morning coffee" (café da manhã)


"breakfast" in Turkish is "kahvaltı" comes from words for after coffee.


Caffeine is unquestionably a drug. While you can even give caffeine freely to kids, use of mostly all other substances may even cause death penalty in some countries. Pure caffeine powder is actually very dangerous, even in small quantities like 1000 milligrams.

"That chemical of course is caffeine, which is now the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, used daily by 80 percent of humanity. (It is the only such drug we routinely give to our children, in the form of soda.)"


> small quantities like 1000 milligrams.

Or, as it's also known, "1 gram".


Is sugar a drug? If not, what would the differentiation be?


Sugar is glucose plus whatever and is safe in moderation.

Caffeine is a stimulant drug that you cannot give pregnant women more than a cup a day and it gives you physical withdrawals if you try to quit.

edit: edited due to nitpicking.


>Sugar is glucose plus whatever and is safe in moderation.

Lots of things that are addictive or considered a drug can be safe in moderation.

>Caffeine is a stimulant drug that you cannot give pregnant women at all and it gives you physical withdrawals if you try to quit.

Well that's just not true and I'd caution you to not speak in absolutes. Pregnant women can have finite amounts of caffeine. We just had our first child and my wife's doctor cleared her to have a cup a day during her pregnancy. A cup a day is, as far as I can tell, commonly considered OK[0].

"Current guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other experts say that it's safe for pregnant women to consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, or around one daily 12-ounce cup of coffee."[1]

[0]https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/caffeine-inta...

[1]https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/eating-well/week-4/ca...


The conclusion for the first article you linked is:

> Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is your safest course of action. If you must get your fix, it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider to make the healthiest choice for you and your baby.

If caffeine isn't so addictive then it should be no problem to give it up for pregnancy :)

Caffeine crosses the placenta to your baby which cannot metabolize it. There are numerous studies of how caffeine causes birth defects. I'll change my absolute but it doesn't really deter from my point that caffeine can be harmful drug in some scenarios (pregnancy) even when drinking it moderately (2-3 cups a day).


Sugar seems to stimulate as well. Perhaps not in the same sense as caffeine?

And I've definitely experienced sugar withdrawals that felt physical when I reduced my refined sugar intake. Could those have been psychological, but just felt physical? Psychosomatic - is that the right word?


Your blood sugar level was probably out of wack.

Depends on a lot of things, what type of sugar, the amount, your metabolism, your age, etc.


Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, and it is among the big three nutritional substances; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Caffeine and cocaine are also natural plant products but they are habit-forming stimulant drugs found in much smaller concentrations of the "medicinal" crop compared to the plant sugars found in the commercial sweetener food crops like beets, sugar cane, and maple.

Pure chemicals have concentrated properties that can be much more extreme than their low-concentration behavior.

Drugs or not.

Crystals are among the big three physical forms for pure chemicals; solid, liquid, and gas.

It has been well recognized that habitual consumption of these example substances beyond a certain concentration will lead to negative outcomes according to the individual, the substance, and the habit.


However, it's not addictive like many other drugs. Sure you'll suffer withdrawal for a day or too with some bad migraines, but afterward you're off it. I just make sure if I'm gonna miss a day to pack some aspirin to combat the headache.


What?!? It's one the most addictive drugs there is.

Those migraines you mentioned are one of many terrible withdraw symptoms.

It is the only drug I truly have been unable to quit. Despite weeks of being off of it, I always relapse after the cravings get too much.

It was easier to quit cigs for me than it is to stop drinking coffee. If it's a stimulant it's going to be very hard to quit.

The only reason it's not considered an addiction by experts is because you don't destroy your life when you run out, BECAUSE IT'S EVERYWHERE and super accepted (you can do it at work), also because I assume $$$.

So it's sort of like mobile/social media addiction but worse because it's more acceptable and it has physical withdrawal/cravings.

Now I'm going to go have a coffee because I have a headache and I'm irritated.


Sugar is addictive too. Should we cut that entirely out of our diets too?

The fact that it isn't bad for you doesn't make addiction a bad thing. It's when addiction consumes your life and you forgo the good things in life that it becomes bad.


Didn't say we should cut it out, just was replying to the GP that it's not easy to quit, it's very addictive.

I didn't say it would consume your life and make you forgo the good things.


I've met very few people in my lifetime who went from heavy caffeine usage to non.


People do it out of habit and because it tastes good. It becomes ritualistic in a way. I'm not sure how disiplined most people are, but I can just stop (and have several times). I choose not to because I enjoy it. If I'm super busy in the morning, I'll just go without. I don't treat it like a performance enhancing product that some may which I'd argue may be why it's harder for those types of people to quit. They rely on it to make up for other places in their life they are failing with.


Modern addiction specialists don't fetishize physical addiction the way many lay people do. What really characterizes "addiction" is problematic usage, i.e. continued use in the face of adverse consequences. Most (all?) caffeine users do not suffer adverse behavioral or physical consequences. That's really the distinction that matters.


Stimulants, including caffeine, cause irritability among other bad side-effects.

The only reason it's not characterized by these "modern addiction specialists", whatever that is, is because of both $$$ and how socially acceptable it is.

Since you can get your caffeine fix in anyway for really cheap (or not so cheap if you want) and you can drink it at work without any weird looks it doesn't destroy your social life.

Just because it doesn't destroy your social life doesn't mean it's not addictive, but I guess that's just the layman in me.


> The only reason it's not characterized by these "modern addiction specialists", whatever that is

As a sort of meta point, every time I use the phrase "modern addiction specialist" in a thread somebody responds expressing skepticism that such a thing exists or that the definition of addiction I've provided reflects consensus opinion. This is...weird. The American Psychiatric Association leads their "What is Addiction?" page with the following text:

"Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence."

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-...


Yes and thats my rationale as well. People get so uptight about the phrase addiction that they assume it means it's bad. Addiction is only bad when it interferes with other parts of your life that it shouldn't. Also I've found most people rely on it for its performance enhancing aspect which I'd argue is why it can be addictive for most people. I for one am more prone to quit coffee in the summer than in the winter simply because of the temperature outside.


Don't talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. \s

Don't talk to me until I've eaten this mug.


If your point is that many people are hypocritically and uncritically vilifying many drugs just because they they are called drugs - that's very true.

Otherwise, why does it matter if the category of "drugs" includes coffee?


I got given it as a child in the form of coffee.


Not enough uses of the word capitalism for my taste.


> the government launched a program of land privatization, forcing the Indians to either move to more marginal lands or find work on the new coffee plantations.

Government forcing people off their own lands is nationalization, which is literally the opposite of privatization.


It's more like the land cosolidation act Britain passed in the 1800s. The peasant holdings making subsistence were forced out or became laborers. The "privatization" is where a business takes over.

It's better on a production level simply because the focus is for people to exclusively work on that as opposed to people living the complex life of a farmer. Instead of 100 peasants being marginal jack of all trades, you have maybe 50 be somewhat better at a select few tasks.




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