The Role of Chemistry in History

The Role of Chemistry in History header image 2

Coffee’s Impact on the Nation of Brazil

May 7th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Introduction | What is Caffeine: Molecule Structure | Stimulating Science: The Properties of Caffeine | Discovery: The Magical Bean | Coffee Creates a Social Lifestyle in Europe |Colonization and Coffee|Coffee’s Impact on the Nation of Brazil|Coffee Industry Today| Conclusions

One prime example of a former colony which the colonial cultivation of coffee has affected significantly is Brazil. The Portuguese introduced coffee to Brazil in 1732, and even after their independence in 1822, coffee would remain the Brazil’s dominate source of commercial revenue and largest agricultural crop. Author Robert Williams discusses the progression and the rise of the nation as a major coffee supplier in his book States and Social Evolution. He writes, “by the 1830’s, Brazilian production surpassed that of the older producing areas of the Dutch East Indies, and by 1881 more than half of world output came from Brazil… and by 1900 Brazil was producing more than two-thirds of the world’s coffee” (Williams, 1994, p 20). To this day, Brazil remains the leading coffee producing country in the world.

Coffee fueled the development and progression of the nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many beneficial aspects arose from the cultivation of coffee. For example, networks of railways were built across the country. However, there were also social downsides; for instance, the abolition of slavery in the country was occurred very slowly. Slavery was not completely abolished until 1888, because many of the wealthy coffee growers relied on cheap labor on their plantations. Another negative effect was the disparities in wealth that were created within the social classes in Brazil.

The continual growth of coffee has also impacted the environment of the country. The landscape of Brazil has changed greatly due to the centuries of coffee cultivation. Large amounts of forests have been destroyed, which also eliminates much of the wildlife that would thrive naturally thrive in this environment. Le Couteur explains that, “grown as a monoculture, the coffee tree quickly exhausts soil fertility, requiring new land to be developed as the old becomes less and less productive” (Le Couteur & Burreson, 2003, p 267). This traps the nation in a vicious circle; and the constant clearing natural rainforest means that it will never be fully restored. Le Couteur also highlights the fact that the “overreliance on one crop generally means local populations forgo planting more traditional necessities, making them even more vulnerable to the vagaries of world markets” (Le Couteur & Burreson, 2003, p 268).

Tags: Caffeine