A wild coffee story. Grab a cup and enjoy. Seduction, smuggling, wealth, corruption, this story has it all.
Coffee is the #1 drink other than water in the world. It's grown all over the world, but Brazil exports the most! 45 million bags annually. I am particularly fond of the coffee story about how coffee made it to Brazil from France.
Legend has it, Portuguese Lt. Col. Francisco del Melo Palheta seduced a Guianese governors’ wife to acquire her help is getting bean (seeds) across the border. In 1727, on a “diplomatic” trip to French Guiana, DeMelo Palheta had to get creative if he wanted to get the seeds. Apparently, he had failed many times to convince the Guiana to allow him access to their prized coffee seeds. So, his creativity led to the seduction and the ultimate smuggling of the seeds out of the country in a bouquet of flowers. But his mission almost failed again.
During the long boat ride home to Para Brazil, the trip was nearly spoiled again and again by storms. The crew was wrecked, injured and quickly ran out of supplies. Drinkable water was running low, but Lt. Col. was resourceful and kept alive enough men to pilot the ship back home. Nearly killing everyone on board. Luckily, they made it home and the precious seeds quickly thrived and started spreading south. By the 1830’s Brazil was producing 30% of the world's coffee and created extreme wealth for the early 19th-century plantation owners. Called Coffee Barrons, they were rich and powerful and shaped the growth of the country from politics to railway development and even banking/credit.
These plantations were manned by slaves, European immigrants. Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888 and it dealt a big blow to the coffee royalty. Later the depression of the 1930s in North America further diminished their power but the final blow was in 1962 when the IAC came to power establishing quotas and set pricing for the world's coffee producers. The International Coffee Agreement sought to regulate and bring stability to the price and availability of coffee around the world. Generally, a good thing since coffee was the wild wild west with underground slavery still happening and bad working conditions.
I try to imagine what it was like on that ship. Did the sailors know they had a bean that would bring such wealth to their nation? Did the Lt. Col. keep it a secret? The men who died on that boat and the years of slavery that came along after its establishment were the dark side of the journey. When looking back at history it is hard to judge it with what we know today. I can appreciate the hustle and determination of the Lt. Col. but the torment and human sacrifice it led to is hard to comprehend.
Next time we will end on a lighter note I promise. Today, I am sipping and contemplating some history.