“Indigenous” is a bit of a buzz-word, since now not much is. Expanding the worthy cult of rediscovering the local but also reminding us of its historical origins, this “Whole Foods”-style map of the wide world of intoxicants is an appreciation of diversity and a true big picture. In its most recent issue addressing the theme of Intoxication, Lapham’s Quarterly has backed a boggling collage of historical snippets of moments of intoxication past–Casanova’s night on the town; Stephen Crane on opium; Honore de Balzac on the delights of coffee; or the Apple in Eden– with the dimension of space. The map offers a nicely complementary map to an image of the inhabited world, even if one you won’t see on the walls of elementary school classrooms soon: is it where there are inhabitants, there are media of intoxication, or that societies grow up around intoxicants? (Although given teenagers’ habits for self- experimentation, perhaps it should be mandatory to post it in every US high school to encourage global awareness in a provocative DIY way.)
Intoxicants are a measure of sociability, at least. Beer seems missing from the list, or diminished in the face of Michael Jackson’s claim for the “perfectly reasonable academic theory that civilization began with with beer” in his World Guide to Beer some years ago, a theory that brewer Dave Alexander of Brickseller Brewery summed up that “beer is probably the reason for civilization.” Archeologist Brian Hayden of Simon Fraser University has both pursued and refined this argument by suggesting that the Neolithic domestication of cereals was largely for domestic brewing, linking beer to the “emergence of complex societies, leading Charles Q. Choi to broadcast that “Beer lubricated civilization,” based on archeological evidence that maps beer to the analysis of human remains found in the Nile delta. (This is not only an argument in Canada.)
But these theories beg the big picture. If beer is bread, let’s expand our basket of intoxicants by cocktails that offer grounds for socialization beyond the sixpack in a site-specific map: rather than a map of where you can go to get intoxicated, the above map takes a wider view, timed for St. Patrick’s Day, by amply recognizing the Mediterranean grape, honey, barley of Mesopotamia, palm wine, beside the grain and hops it calls indigenous to Europe. Broadening our horizons by embracing the prickly poppy, mushroom, peyote, beetroot, embracing the glorious juniper berry as well as the Sonoran desert toad, which join cannabis and coca or the Kola nut, to picture the origins of human sociability in more variegated and broader landscape. No doubt toads and prickly poppies weren’t as easily domesticated, not to mention Arctic Club Moss, but the big picture provides a nicely bucolic view of varied ecological habitats, as well as providing a new sort of level for what Italians have come to call Agriturismo, just in time for Spring Vacation. It may give fieldwork a good name, even after Napoleon Chagnon took the dark-green slime dripping from noses of hallucinogen-induced violence among Yanomani as signs of their state of perpetual warfare.
Coffee beans elegantly strewn across the gridded surface of a burlap sack may map the entire world; but they can only belie the fact that the area suitable for growing coffee beans stands to be reduced by as much as half by 2050, if climate change continues. In the face of increasing demands for fresh beans from developed countries, Arabica beans that have long flourished in the ecology of tropical highlands may well stop receiving the year-round rains that not only enable but nourish their growth, and demand more water than the ground naturally holds. With caffeine currently ranked as the second most traded commodity world-wide–the global trade of caffeine is second only to oil, and suggests a similar manner of speeding along through space, adenosine receptors in our brain blocked off because of caffeine intake to block our biological clocks–we seem to be cutting off our own abilities to reflect on the growing crisis of a demand for caffeine, driven by self-medication by espresso drinks, that curtails our ability to reflect on how sustainable the expansion of coffee farming across tropical highlands actually is, long-term, as coffee growing seeks higher grounds with rising global temperatures.
If that isn’t as great a wake-up call as the aroma of coffee, what is? As we shop for single-origin coffee from a variety of global locations, we might do well to consider not only the global footprint of coffee beans, beyond the bird-friendliness and fair trade nature of the beans we brew, but the networks of global exchange by which the brew was not only long nourished, but has expanded to become almost a new lingua franca of the globe. As the number of coffee stores and outlets in airports has multiplied, in a mark of the escalating global demand, the way beans map the world is perhaps less important than the global networks that have facilitated coffee to travel and to circulate so intensively and so abundantly to fill our daily caffeine fix.
When accomplished food photographer Adam Gault captured an image of roasted beans on a burlap bag, situated on an what seems an Ortelian projection, woven burlap threads recalling a graticule, or just the art of coffee roasting, as beans on burlap are almost a sub-genre of Gault’s work. the absence of the smell of coffee seemed a sanitization of the routes by which beans are shipped globally from the equatorial belt of coffee-growing, but a joke on the near-global appeal of caffeinating with a dark roast. Gault’s clever photograph dates from the Iraq War, curiously, the first to be based on use of GPS satellites as a sort of proof-of-purchase illustration or test of GPS in a global environment, if the points rendered by beans on the equirectangular faux graticule of a coffee bag suggested the enabling of coffee transport from growing zones as a more pleasant upside to how the nineteen satellites then in orbit allowed “coalition” forces run by American command centers to pinpoint the enemy n a desert terrain.
But the double duty that the coffee bag served as a time-tested GPS grid of coffee beans showed off the emergence of coffee roasting as a global network, allowing beans from economically disadvantaged regions to arrive smoothly onto the counters of Starbucks, Peets, or Nero for a morning ritual of pleasure. The 1991 print has since become a stock image and shorthand for globalism and globalization, displayed as a mural in coffee shops, that has a clear correlate in the sourcing of coffees from around the equatorial belt, in parallel to the growth of coffee shops as meeting places to sample the distillation of blends defined by place-names, condensed into a drip coffee brew. The photograph strikes one as a record of the reach of coffee farms and plantations, but brackets the global impact of coffee, not to mention the ties of coffee to climate–those networks of trade seem to advertise the global proximity of place to fresh coffee at any point in the world, the roasted bean a neat play on the point-based geography that has been rendered suddenly proximate to the farming of fresh coffee for a customer’s pleasure.
The pleasure of coffee is hardly captured in the image, however, and part of the appeal of the popular “map” may lie in seeing a cartographic joke removed from the ways we sense coffee–its aroma and its taste–both hardly able to be be captured in a purely visual register, as much as questions of what real map a near-global availability of coffee conceals. It is something of a resolution to the question of the great Viennese philosopher posed in a work he completed in Salzburg, toward the end of World War II, investigating the uses of language, and their relation to lived experience, that pondered the lack of words to describe the aroma of coffee–“Describe the aroma of coffee–why can’t it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking?–But how dow we even get the idea that such a description must after all be possible?have you ever felt the lack of such a description? have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded?“–that may relate to his own interest in describing a Proustian recognition of coffee upon returning from Cambridge to Vienna, taking coffee’s aroma as a case of how any object is described in words, or what language game that might define the familiar ritual of coffee-drinking. If not able to translate the aroma, it might be flattened to a suitably rustic burlap screen, whose appearance a visual crutch orienting you to a variety of pleasant aromas which exist outside language, if hiding the wheels of a global infrastructure of cultivation and shipping allows the barista to fill your cup.
Americans were sold the image of a nearby “land of coffee” of bucolic cultivation in the postwar period, arriving from afar in a world of interconnected global commerce, long before World War II. We were apt to forget how the organization of coffee crops is an inheritance of the plantation economy immersed in a geography of natural resources and ecological imbalances created by climate change. If the history of the plantation and land conversion gained less place as coffee was first promoted as a modern convenience arriving effortlessly and extracted painlessly from a far-off land of abundance whose aroma would summon Americans to their morning coffee in early morning waking hours and as they moved from unconscious life to bracingly hot cups of a steaming beverage, whose aroma triggers in Pavlovian fashion a re-awakening as the welcome taste of coffee and cream to start the day.
“World of Coffee,” Colombian Pavilion, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco 1939
The ‘Land of Coffee’ promoted at the International Exposition noted but concealed the clearing of grounds, weeding, picking “cherries,” washed and fermented and re-washed before air dried in the tropical air for a long voyage to preparing a smooth, rich, amber-clear brew, enjoyed as a rich blend. The travel of coffee beans was black-boxed for the customers, concealing the remote cultivation of beans from a global bean-growing belt since massively grown on a global scale of production.
Today, we know vaguely brand-sounding sites of the farming of coffee beans, of varied intensity and darkness, on a richly described palettes that often assume greater importance as a register of sense-perception than the beans’ provenance. The place-names of coffee beans are a richly robust exotic geography of their own, fair trade, to be sure, but almost independent from an actual global geography, lying like a set of reference points existing detached and at a remove from an physical ecosystem or geography. If coffees are classified as shade-grown, organic, bird-friendliness or not grown in the forest canopy, the remove of coffee from geography growing in proportion to its market and customer demand, not to mention the 500,000 families farming coffee beans in Colombia’s mountainous highlands alone.
If the promoters of Colombian coffee at the Colombian Pavilion promised “the greatest writers, poets, scholars have long been and are today great users of coffee,” which “sharpens the mind” as it “buoys the spirit,” as well as improving physical health and morale, proven by Washington’s classification of coffee as indispensable to mobilized troops, the provision of coffee seemed a peace-time dividend of the beverage grown in plateaus “at the very gates of the Panama Canal,” in a country whose climate, soil, and altitude were perfectly adapted to producing fine coffees for its northern neighbor–and offered a detailed mapping of census of coffee growers and distances of shipping from plantations, from the recent geodetic survey that revealed the with harvesting seasons, free for coffee businesses, marked the scientific status of maps made of Latin America by the American Geographic Society of New York since 1922, rather than state agencies, of apparent authority–elevations, hard-edged contours, and colored relief, even where little surveying occurred: Colombia Growers used the geodetic survey to plot the coffee survey to sell Americans an image confirming the dominance of Colombian goods, using a map made to promote American cartographic imperialism, as well as international trade. (It may appear quaint that the upper left time-table notes distances of plantations and farms to nearby shipping ports, rather quaintly, to promote the well-connected nature of Colombian coffee farms to a global shipping network, but the large bulk of bean transit still arrives today by container ship.). If the timetable of distances from farms to coastal shipping ports seems quaint, the same ports ship beans globally today.
Coffee Map of the Republic of Colombia, World’s Largest Producer of Mild Coffees, Prepared by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, 1: 2,750,000 (1933)
Distances from Coffee Centers of Production to Five Coastal Shipping Ports
The global terrain of coffee production has almost astronomically grown to meet current consumption levels, at a briskness that can barely compare to population growth, moving beans from the equatorial band of coffee farming across the globe. Globally, 25 million farmers now rely on their production of the beans today–most of whom are small farmers–but rising temperatures predicted could radically reduce and effectively circumscribe what those in the know call the “coffee map” that tracks the traffic in beans, their shipping across seas, and arrival for roasting, before arriving in the United States of America, in a huge infrastructure of extraction and transport of container ships moving beans globally.
The residents of the United States appear to be perhaps so least problematically united by consuming caffeine that when Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz floated his name as a credible Independent candidate for U.S. President, able to shift a stubbornly challenging electoral map tilted to Republicans, it provoked pangs of angst in the Democratic Party, almost akin to reflux. The emergence of coffee as a new social glue in the United States was perhaps hardly new, but coffee-drinking may be our final national ritual. Starbucks offers an early morning altar of waking sociability, with an ubiquity that probably led Howard Shultz to imagine that the drink’s national popularity might lead to his election even in an age of increasingly oppositional–if not confrontational–politics of hyper-partisan divisions. Shultz’s candidacy might be probably in what is increasingly a nation of coffee- drinkers, where consensus might be best defined around a hot morning beverage, or at least one proven susceptible to coffee marketers, where satisfaction can be perhaps most easily imagined in relation to well-roasted beans. Is drinking coffee together one of the few rites that persists in a landscape of bowling alone?
The threat of self-candidacy of the coffee bean mogul once seemed a clever gambit to reach beyond parties, perhaps one destined to follow the fear of a post-Trump oligarchy that deflated the Democratic Party, and inspired critical commentary from the oligarchical crowd of Bloomberg, Buffett, et al., who presented the real threat of a coffee-driven candidacy as a thwarting of the American people. While the coffee once flowed from Colombia as a sign of America’s cartographic imperialism over Latin America, the image of Shultz as a moderator of the current Pax Americana seems to have tried to convert coffee to a new symbol of American global supremacy in an era of globalization, as if the task of transporting, roasting, and brewing rotating blends sourced from equatorial lands for globally dispersed markets provided a bracing surrogate of American global dominance. Perhaps his candidacy can be understood domestically–Shultz’s popularity as embodying American power grew as if the promise to lower the prices of a venti might tilt the electoral map, and meet cravings that the nation had become plagued: the conversion of beans to espresso-based drinks like cappuccino pose questions rooted in old-style economic geography, however, of shipping beans to roasteries, whose currency demand mapping, as the absence of geographic reflection seems suddenly to render global consciousness soluble in a cuppa joe.
If Howard Schultz coasts on a new wave of the capital of coffee’s aroma, a model of self-fashioning of economic wealth refreshingly different from Bloomberg, Trump, and Buffett, with profit margins far more rooted in investment in intangibles, we might remember coffee’s clear ties to processes of global warming we rarely see in a cup of coffee or scoop of invitingly glistening dark beans. In the lure of the inviting coffee cup, we are perhaps most apt to forget the global fears of deforestation, environmental devastation, shrinking groundwater, and sensitive habitat all underlie the triggering aromas and inviting sight of those scoops of fresh dark-roasted beans. His candidacy can be understood just as well as a form of displacing concerns about global warming, climate change, fragmented ecosystems, and habitat loss, in which plentiful ventis keeps arriving on the counter or in customers’ to go cups, preserving a new normal that sanctions Americans’ continued oblivious consumption of caffeine. If the transport and global sourcing of coffee continues, normality might seem to be able to be preserved.
The sorts of disruption in growing beans that localized drought in those tropical highlands seems almost destined to bring–as the worst dry spell in decades that hit Brazil’s coffee belt, destroying a third of the crop or a decline by a half in coffee bean yields in Tanzania since the 1960s, as temperatures warm and the ground becomes more wet, stand to grow not only the price of the two and a quarter billion cups of coffee we humans consume daily, in what seems like a private experience, meaning that the beans will no longer be so abundant in those burlap bags, or so plentifully and bounteously displayed in buckets that tempt the spending of a few bills on an easy pick-me-up that feels all too eerily like an intravenous feed.
In Columbia alone, coffee leaf rust that is the consequence of weather that is both warmer and wetter stand to damage some 60% of the country’s agricultural land by 2050, making for a decreased abundance of beans and ever more removed cup of joe. Indeed, coffee beans are particular enough about growing conditions that to remain optimal conditions of production, the temperature should remain between 18–21°C, and once rising above 23°C, bean quality declines and the plant grows far too fast, noticeably changing its taste, flavor bouquet, and aroma . . . with a detectable shift occurs with only a rise of only half of a degree at the wrong time in the growing season, in ways that could change coffee harvests far sooner that one might expect.
More than any other sector of life, the tremendous growth of coffee consumption over the past decades invites a daily morning exercise of geographic literacy. In hubs of metropolitan coffee drinking, the local origins of beans are invested with a provenance that is supplemented by detailed descriptions of their practices of cultivation. The geographic here primarily signifies or maps to the gastronomic; provenance of coffee has a deeper resonance than the locations of their roasting, and erases the huge distances traversed in their transportation or the local climates in which they were produced. The importation of coffees and costs of coffee farming are naturalized within local coffee bars as a geographic palate, as we’re accustomed to having Sulawesi, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania among the rotating coffees of the week, and in our cups; their names, instead of the once-dominantColumbian or Brazil beans, are part of our routines that are often stripped of geographic signification as place-names–even though they might be better understood as a geographic lesson with climate warming as its subject.
The Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, with offices in New Orleans and San Francisco, as well as New York, thanked the Consulate General in the booklet that it printed for the Colombian Pavillion in the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939 in San Francisco–an occasion to mark the anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal, some twenty four years earlier at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, rhetorically asking readers in openly boosterish terms, “How about a second cup of Colombian coffee?” The all caps response–“IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!”–sought to refute fears of the jitters, lack of sleep, or uneasy stomach that coffee-drinking might bring, as it promoted Colombia coffee as the world’s best among global varietals–with some considerable cartographic license–
–if the climactic map that it worked from suggested the deeply colonial cartography of coffee beans on what seems a zonal map, but which is credited to Rand McNally & Co as authoritative record of the global climates in which coffee beans actually grew. On the heels of the recent remapping of much of Latin America in apparently authoritative form by the
“Coffee Growing Countries Follow the Equator,” from The Land of Coffee (1939)
While Colombia showed itself in all caps, second only to Brazil as a coffee exporter, the pamphlet oriented readers to the global market for coffee in the then-current language of globalism. “If you were to fly around the world, following the path of the Equator, and if you could look out across the half of the Tropical Zone on either side of your plane,” it began, using the novelty of the Air Age to describe the accessibility to global markets to which American coffee drinkers could benefit, “you would behold the fifty or more countries–some of them large to be sure, some of them but tiny islands–in which coffee today grows.” While “coffee did not always grow the length of this wide belt that circles the earth at the tropics,” the global networks of trade that facilitated its global spread from the 9th century, when a humble Arabian goat herder was “credited” with the discovery that the roasted beans might create a beverage, if a more survivalist story of a Dervish, Hadji Omer, exiled from the land of Mocha in 1285, survived for days on the berries of one coffee tree while in hiding, was the first to steep some beans after browning them in an open fire, whose popularity was only cemented as the popularity it won in Turkish coffee houses in Constantinople, drawing customers from deserted mosques, lead to the fad to move first to Venice by 1615, and New York soon after by 1640, coffee houses were founded there in and Boston in the colonial period, before the dissemination of the plant to French colonies from Martinique to the East Indies shifted the “map of coffee growing” to lead grounds for coffee planting to Cuba, leading land to be cleared in Colombia, after Spanish colonization introduced the bean to the South American mainland.
Today, the most globalist of all coffee chains, Starbucks, openly invites us, in the age of globalism, to remember a map as a decorative object, where place names are overlapping and indeed colliding with descriptors of the good on a map that seems more decorative than geographical in content, recurring as a backdrop for savoring the aromas of its blends, the global map colored, predictably, a rich coffee-shaded hue, all boundaries elided or obscured in a world that seems saturated by java, as if for the benefit of the drinker’s taste, providing a decorative map to enhance the drinking experience in a roadside Starbucks, on Highway 5.
The lush landscapes in the faux manuscript nautical map overwhelms whatever denotative content of the tropics. The majestic wall map was quite intentionally reduced to a backdrop for taking a coffee break, pausing in one’s itinerary as one is driving along a California freeway and pausing at a rest stop. It is striking that there is barely any attempt in this mock-antique global map of even making any place legible, only vaguely treating the map as a sort of division of coffee flavors, but treating the globe as saturated by the flavor of beans–rather than of states or nations; descriptors are suspended as if disembodied, across a mock gold-leaf field, indicating the earthy, herbal, and chocolate tastes of coffees from “Asia” or the “Pacific”–rather than specifying distinctions of beans originating from Indonesia, Yemen, Java, Bali, New Guinea, or Ethiopia, where the leafs of coffee plants stretch, beneath the Tropic of Cancer. The lands are a uniform brown, saturated with coffee flavors of disturbingly uniform tone, the descriptors lie on a gold field as if to offer themselves as what we sense as coffee consumers.
Indeed, the triumphal map seemed to almsot displaced by the beans’ descriptor of the beans, whose deeply colored beans provide the more compelling descriptor of the coffee that seems to have indeed displaced the very legibility of place, if not its notion in a map, as they become the site of sensing the flavors of “nutty” coffee beans, the islands are left distinctly defined but without any sense of sovereign identity, and the number of coastal islands of possible cultivation almost infinite in number.
As we drink coffee daily, and isolate the coffee-drinking experience as an ecstatic one that almost exists without place–but is based on the construction of a place to drink coffee apart from the work world or the street, in a space of selective privilege and almost private intimacy, can maps even help to process the origins of coffee plants, or the mystification of converting a place-name to a descriptor, in ways that seem to extract the beans’ flavor from their site of origin?
They might not disrupt the individual experience of a good cup of coffee, an intensely pleasurable and even intensely neurologically stimulating activity, but map the names tied to the pleasure off caffeination to the broader land of the land, moving from the domestic sphere of coffee drinking and the half-private space of cafés where the precious brown liquid now circulates before being imbibed at considerable costs, all too easily concealed in the privacy of our pleasures–
Louis Marin-Bonnet, “Woman Taking Coffee” (1774) Cooper Hewitt (inked engraving)
–to the global world in which this space must be situated. and the global markets on which they our all too easily internalized habits of caffeination increasingly depend.
The lopsided distribution of this conversion of toponymy into gastronomy is evident in a map of where this huge rise of coffee consumption and importation has occurred. If coffee beans were introduced to the future United States in the eighteenth century, coffee has become among the leading importers of beans worldwide. Americans now consume some 23 gallons each day (or 22.1 according to Wikipedia)–but declined far below the 48 gallons Americans were said to consume annually in 1946–0r the 62 gallons downed annually in far chillier Finland. Yet it has become part of bloodstream–literally–and an unprecedented (although we lacked earlier metrics) 161,000 folks listed coffee making or serving as a “skill” in 2013.
We might call this the browning of North America, ignoring that the distribution of local blends, pioneered by Peets and popularized by Starbucks, before being refined by Blue Bottle or Four Barrel, masks variations in a topography of coffee drinking in the United States far more variegated than the homogeneous brown of the United States. (The fact that Canada is yellow may seem comforting, but conceals the very urban nature of this social ritual: notice how those brown dots congregate around Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa . . . ) The absurdity of nationally ranking habits of daily caffeination aside (although there’s an academic press title in here somewhere), the most striking aspect of this map is the huge area of the world left in white, shown here only from the equator since no countries below the equator import coffee beans in such quantity.
Indeed, the ten largest coffee importers, mapped in yellow, not brown, suggests the sharp imbalance of equatorial countries whose products tend to wake up folks in northern climes, in a map whose palette is a ramp that seems composed of light and dark roasts.
The more detailed mapping of the production of coffee by bags of beans, mapped by Oxfam for 2001, showed a nicely skewed data distribution, with those non-growing regions left suitably blank, as if they thirsted for the brown stimulant that came pouring (or steaming) in from equatorial climes:
There is a clear “coffee belt” whose discovery and demarcation the Coffee Grower Association of Hamburg claims responsibility for:
German Coffee Association
The Starbucks map referenced geographic precision of “our coffee belt” in decorative terms, as the flower and pods of the beans overlap the geographical content, and the letters on the map are changed to almost decorative forms, colored the hue of coffee.
And a lot of imported coffee is needed–creating what has indeed long been a pretty big business interest in the US, even before the boutiques of metropolitan areas from the 1990s. Even if, once this huge amount of unroasted beans is divided per capita, rendering regions like Canada and Scandinavia distinctly darker, and measured by consumption of cups/day alone, the geographic distribution looks a bit different in 2011 when mapping coffee consumption per capita in this clickable map of circa 2008:
Which returns us to the interests that all maps conceal. By the alchemy of toponymy, the regions from which the beans themselves derive, of course, come from the very equatorial regions that are the sites of forestry. Far from a bucolic image of verdant plains, the expansion of coffee growing has made significant incursions in local habitat, in danger of disrupting ecological niches that this map of coffee-growing conveniently obscures by depicting the bean as growing in undisturbed areas of verdant green.
This is evident in this far more anodyne map, prepared by someone trained in the school of quite openly neo-corporate graphic design:
I appreciate the hand-drawn oval projection, crafted with care in the midwest city of big shoulders, which suggests that if all roads led to Rome, all beans flow to Chicago:
A more informed map might link the cultivation not only to forested regions, but to the very “hot spots” whose local biodiversity is most threatened by global warming, and where the inefficient use of water widespread in coffee cultivation least practical and most pernicious. For it is not only equatorial areas, but from the driest areas on earth:
The overlap of ‘hot spots’ map onto coffee-growing regions alarms; coffee cultivation is widespread in 16 of the 34 most threatened ecosystems. And this is the tip of the iceberg, to use a somewhat mixed metaphor unless one considers iced coffee, of the paradox: privileging the locality of cultivation in maps of caffeine consumption reinforces the fragility of local ecosystems. This is a very different map, speaking map now, from the manner that an earlier cartographical image set the details of consumption as an inevitable but conscious choice, concentrated in one icon, as opposed to the naturalization of growing in isolated pockets of uniform unattractive gray of our analytic objectivity, suggesting the weight of coffee consumption by its distribution of black donuts–an interesting symbolic choice:
Indeed, the conscious coffee drinkers at the Water Footprint in the Netherlands have mapped the severely disproportionate gross virtual water import that results worldwide:
The “flows” of coffee beans might be mapped, if somewhat less legibly, in comparison to those of chocolate, whose parallel commerce from the New World matches it as a popular stimulant from the New World, as Marcie Norton reminds us, that in fact was similar in its function to coffee:
In part, this is a local story, with much of the jumping value of java able to be registered in the Port of Oakland. If the bar graph which groups all beans as a whole, independent of destination, it confirms Oakland’s significance as a global hub of the importation of coffee beans. By 2012, the burgeoning Bay Area community of coffee roasting in the Bay Area took advantage of the fact that Oakland is the second largest site of coffee importation in America, thanks in no small part to the Panama Canal, as engineers who work in Silicon Valley began to scrutinize the thermodynamics of roasting in popcorn poppers or Whirly Pops, stove top, and propane-powered barrel roasters, as close study of roasting past the first and second crack of beans that approached the Maillard process led to the latest expansion of food prep knowledge, as the valuation of the beans imported through Oakland encouraged DIY roasters to fill their kitchens with smoke, seeking the perfect smokiness and acidity in beans whose specific burnt sugar, fig, oatmeal stout, pumpkin and pepitas map worlds of taste contained (and accessible) in coffee beans.
The jump of coffee cravings stateside have expanded at an unprecedented rate fed by Starbucks, with the kilogram consumption of coffee bags breaking world records, per Bloomberg, driven by a nation of junkies whose cravings may only continue to break global records and encouraging disposable incomes devoted to feeding an addiction that is increasingly part of the local landscape of coffee houses.
Let’s recall the lopsided nature of a current map of coffee indulgence that this demand reflects–
–as we note odd emptiness of the very areas where the extractive powers of coffee were so long based if we return back to the Starbucks map from which we began, the areas of Europe, now colored a dun caffeinated color, obscuring that it is the center from which the rage of coffee consumption began.
We might consider the possibility of a re-mapping our daily habits or affectation for caffeination, through this map of the network of coffee distribution and consumption, removed from most familiar geographic categories. The schematic map is courtesy San Jose-trained Roxanne Pasibe:
Or we might consider the huge environmental shifts that the market for farming beans has created, in the “hotspots” for coffee growing that creates new pressures on sustainable lands, and wilderness areas alike, compromising and threatening biological diversity across the equatorial belt. Coffee growing regions now exist in clear overlap with some thirty-four biodiversity hotspots, creating questions, as sustained consumption of the stimulant has spread across the globe with ever greater intensity, that it may compromise both the forest community and biodiversity, as the tentacles of its global trade threaten land stewardship in the most sensitive habitats whose conservation is endangered by coffee farms.
In the initial graphic, the beans naturally drop to the ground, and into our bags. Let’s try to map how they come to get there, and into our cups.
We read more maps than ever before, and rely on maps to process and embody information that seems increasingly intangible by nature. But we define coherence in maps all too readily, without the skepticism that might be offered by an ethics of reading maps that we all to readily consult and devour. Paradoxically, the map, which long established a centering means to understand geographical information, has become regarded uncritically. As we rely on maps to organize our changing relation to space, do we need to be more conscious of how they preset information? While it is meant to be entertaining, this blog examines the construction of map as an argument, and proposition, to explore what the ethics of mapping might be. It's a labor of love; any support readers can offer is appreciated!