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How Coffee Changed America

Photo: How coffee changed America infographic

Credit: Lumin Interactive and Condor Consulting

 

(Click to enlarge)

I’ve written a lot in the past about the social and environmental impacts of coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages and most highly traded commodities. I have considered writing a book about it (let me know if you think you’d be interested), but I’ve always been a little hesitant about how much the average consumer really wants to know about it.

Many of us adore the taste and other sensations of a hot cup of joe, not to mention the comfort and ritual of it, but how much do we want to look behind the bean? For all the talk of caffeine, science actually doesn’t know a lot about its effects on the human body, much less the hundreds of other biologically active ingredients (and their interactions) present in your latte. There’s a lot of debate on how healthful coffee is, and studies often seem to contradict each other.

(Related: “Benefits of Coffee as Garden Compost“)

Coffee also has a complex relationship with culture and the environment. Done “right,” in traditional shade-grown operations, coffee can help preserve valuable semi-forest and forest habitat. It can provide work for rural people and is a primary export of many developing countries.

Done “wrong,” coffee cultivation can result in cleared rainforests, large inputs of pesticides, poisoning of workers, brutally low wages, and degradation of habitats. Many certification schemes have cropped up around the world to give market signals to better producers. I have written extensively about Fair Trade, bird-friendly, organic, Rainforest Alliance-certified, and other programs.

Coffee people are often as passionate about their preferred eco-label as they are about their single-country-of-origin bean or favorite blend, and there are pluses and minuses to every certification. The old adage that coffee “should be triple certified” (planet, people, no pesticides) has largely fallen out of favor, due to the high costs to growers for enrollment in each program and the large areas of overlap among organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and other standards.

Coffee also has a rich cultural history, both in areas where it is grown and in the wider world. Prized seeds were smuggled into remote jungles to jumpstart illicit plantations, and coffeehouses evolved as centers for alternative gatherings. The coffeehouse has often become a lightning rod for debate about globalization, corporate responsibility, and local ownership. (Activists picketing the first Starbucks in my college town once screamed, “Is your coffee worth it?” at me, although they looked bewildered when I told them I had ordered hot chocolate. A week later the large glass windows of the storefront were smashed.)

So although I am now caffeine sensitive myself, and can only enjoy the occasional cup of decaf (I know, sacrilege), I reviewed this new infographic with interest.

Brian Clark Howard is a writer and editor with NationalGeographic.com. He was formerly an editor at The Daily Green and E/The Environmental Magazine and has contributed to many publications, including TheAtlantic.com, FastCompany.com, MailOnline.com, PopularMechanics.com, Yahoo!, MSN and elsewhere. His latest book, with Kevin Shea, is Build Your Own Small Wind Power System.

Comments

  1. PatrcikM
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    October 23, 2013, 6:05 pm

    I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, just don’t get the taste. I would have ordered the hot chocolate as well:). My wife works on Bay St , Toronto’s Wall street and I can tell you that her industry runs on coffee.

  2. History and spreading of coffee in America
    October 15, 2013, 11:16 am

    […] Data source: nationalgeographic.com […]

  3. Marich man Tamang
    kathmandu,Nepal
    September 8, 2013, 3:24 am

    all most people like drink coffe and read book

  4. Marich man Tamang
    kathmandu,Nepal
    September 8, 2013, 3:21 am

    yes,i like abt coffe

  5. sharad sharma
    nepal
    July 10, 2013, 5:31 am

    i need how coffee changed nepal…

  6. sharad sharma
    nepal
    July 10, 2013, 5:30 am

    this thing is pretty awesome .i had no idea that wall street was fomed over coffeee

  7. [...] tip: Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic, who featured this image in a blog [...]

  8. syed
    http://luxuryhometrend.com/
    January 24, 2013, 11:42 am

    great reserch of coffe i enjoy this post becoz i love coffe

  9. [...] (Infographic: How Coffee Changed America. ) [...]

  10. [...] I’ve written a lot in the past about the social and environmental impacts of coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages and most highly traded commodities. I have considered writing a book about it (let me know if you think you’d be interested), but I’ve always been a little hesitant about how much the average consumer really wants to know about it. Many of us adore the taste and other sensations of a hot cup of joe, not to mention the comfort and ritual of it, but how much do we want to look behind the bean? For all the talk of caffeine, science actually doesn’t know a lot about its effects on the human body, much less the hundreds of other biologically active ingredients (and their interactions) present in your latte. There’s a lot of debate on how healthful coffee is, and studies often seem to contradict each other. Read more [...]

  11. Stephen Murphy
    New Orleans, LA
    April 10, 2012, 10:37 am

    As a professional coffee trader for almost 40 years, I believe the best book ever written about the full impact coffee has had on all aspects of our lives, from the discovery of the bean until present day, was written by Mark Prendergast and titled “Uncommon Grounds”. I highly recommend it!

  12. Brian Clark Howard
    February 6, 2012, 9:37 am

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments!

  13. [...] Geogrpahic: How Coffee Changed America Tea gets all of the spot light in American history, but it was our friend coffee that changed [...]

  14. Mike
    United States
    January 31, 2012, 3:20 am

    To be fair to Turkey and Europe (especially) and the rest of the world, I think it’s important to say that pour tasting/poorly made coffee changed America. Starbucks got us on board by making good coffee accessible to all Americans. We were pretty slow to pick up on coffee made with higher pressure. The coffee you can buy at a gas station or diner would be qualified as flavored water by the rest of the world.

  15. Morgan
    San Antonio, TX
    January 30, 2012, 5:51 pm

    I think the history of coffee, how coffee impacts our lives, the different kinds and generally the social impact coffee has, is incredibly fascinating. If your book would be focused more about the social impact and the history rather than how to brew coffee or the different kinds of coffee, then I think it would be a fascinating read and I would love to get my hands on that book!

  16. Eve
    England
    January 29, 2012, 1:39 pm

    I`ve been studying America for quite awhile on how they could change and put in more progress and if i look on the data that i collected for coffee, this page is 100% true.I think this page is really good.

  17. Long Miles Coffee Project
    Burundi, East Africa
    January 25, 2012, 11:06 pm

    Agreed, we’re also not sure how much the consumer really wants to know… but we feel like telling them anyway ;)

  18. Coffee in America
    January 25, 2012, 12:35 pm

    [...] after all. For a fun overview of the history of coffee in the United States, take a look at this infographic posted at the National Geographic. In addition to the infographic (be sure to click to enlarge), there’s also links to a couple [...]

  19. [...] How Coffee Changed America [...]

  20. Brett Robertson
    Puerto Rico
    January 23, 2012, 7:05 am

    If you don’t drink coffee then please DO NOT write a book about it! I asked a coffee shop owner once if her coffee was good. she told me she didn’t know because she didn’t drink coffee. I tasted it, told her it was stale, and asked her to brew me a fresh cup.

  21. YESHO NELSON
    Uganda
    January 23, 2012, 6:57 am

    Iam looking for a company or an individual that buys coffee to network with my company called ILSCA and make a busness for arabica coffee of Mount Elgon that is the best coffee in East Africa. Please cotact me in the Email above

    Yours
    Yesho Nelson
    Managing Director
    ILSCA

  22. Coffee Dome
    Australia
    January 22, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Very interesting article! I have to agree write the book.

  23. [...] Source:http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/01/19/coffee-changed-america-infographic/ Advertisement LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_text", "666666"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_link", "4779AC"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_border", "F8F8F2"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_url", "BBD1D8"); LD_AddCustomAttr("LangId", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "technology"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "books"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "science"); LD_AddSlot("wpcom_below_post"); LD_GetBids(); Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  24. [...] for the sake of completeness, here’s the article related to the illustration. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  25. [...] not that impressed with it but to be fair and for the sake of completeness, here’s the article related to the [...]

  26. Desi Cabrera
    Toronto
    January 20, 2012, 8:09 am

    Very interesting article. A lot can be said about the history of coffee and how today’s coffee corporations try to project an image of maintaining strong CSR values. There is however a new coffee company “Laughing Man” (founded by film star Hugh Jackman) that based it’s business model on strong CSR intiatives. Have a read when you when get a chance http://www.miratelinc.com/blog/hugh-jackman%E2%80%99s-csr-business-values-at-forefront-of-laughing-man/

  27. [...] It can provide work for rural people and is a primary export of many developing countriesSource:http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/01/19/coffee-changed-america-infographic/ Publicado por Becky en [...]

  28. [...] It can provide work for rural people and is a primary export of many developing countriesSource:http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/01/19/coffee-changed-america-infographic/ Publicado por Becky en [...]

  29. Bag of Randomness
    January 20, 2012, 5:00 am

    [...] How Coffee Changed America   [...]

  30. Cathy
    Santa Monica
    January 20, 2012, 1:28 am

    Thanks for sharing – and yes, please write the book!

  31. Has Coffee Really Changed America?
    January 19, 2012, 6:18 pm

    [...] Today National Geographic News online writer Brian Clark Howard posted a News Watch article titled, “How Coffee Changed America“. [...]

  32. Spencer Belkofer
    United States
    January 19, 2012, 3:16 pm

    This thing is pretty awesome. I had no idea that Wall Street was formed over coffee!