Coffee in South America

May 25, 2020

There isn’t a place in the world that hasn’t been touched by coffee.

Coffee up until the time it entered Latin America was treasured for bringing people together to be shared over conversation, and celebrated for its energizing properties. However, the need for mass-production forced by heightened consumption began a push back that many cultures and countries have yet to recover from. Throughout the 18th and 19th century black slaves and Indeginous peoples faced forced, unfit labor conditions, and stolen lands in order to keep up with the global demand for coffee.


In the early 1700’s coffee seedlings were taken to the Caribbean, where the conditions of growth allowed South America’s start to coffee cultivations to expand in tremendous ways. Though the conditions for growth were strong, the social conditions of which individuals worked under were not. African slaves were the main source of labor for French Colonial plantations in Latin America, and the mistreatment and poor working conditions forced upon slaves quickly lead to revolt and revolution. By the late 1780’s over half the world's coffee was produced in plantations in Haiti, which soon erupted in the Haitian Revolution in 1791. These self-liberated slaves fought for freedom from colonial rule that lasted till 1804, and was the beginning of anti-slavery movements against colonial rule across the Americas.


Guatemala was one of the first Latin American countries to produce and export coffee. As it had a high demand for workers in order to harvest coffee beans, the government stepped in and forcefully pushed Indeginous peoples to work. To add to this, the land many plantations were built on was land overtaken by colonialists from Indeginous peoples. This has since continued to be the source of disruption in the relationship the Guatemalan Government has with its Indeginous communities.


In Portugal, by a man named Francisco de Melo Palheta was sent to acquire the first beans and seedlings from the French colony in Guiana, though this task was not simple. He was only able to acquire what he needed through an affair with a French Governor's wife. She sent Palheta all the seeds necessary to kick off the beginning of the slow-growing coffee industry in Brazil. Though it was in 1893 when Brazilian coffee made its way to Kenya, one of its original places of cultivation and production. Today Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world.


As the demand for coffee has grown, plantations have had to learn to adapt in order to uphold production. Shared globally amongst all cultures coffee will always be brewing, if you want to know more about how coffee plantations have adapted over time, or about how different cultures prepare coffee in their own unique styles stay tuned and follow our page.