If coffee doesn’t impress you even if it is the second most traded commodity in the world—after oil—and that coffee drinkers are as many as there are Chinese in China, how about this—it invented marine insurance. Kind of, at least. Here are some grand matters that coffee has one way or another shaped and influenced, meriting a good conversation around the brew machine on your next coffee break.
It’s the 17th century and London was the world’s trade center. It was also a city replete with coffee houses, and one of these was Edward’s Lloyd’s coffee shop, a kind of watering hole for traders and shippers. In there, they talked about, well, trading and shipping. At the top of the talk list was likely the dreaded scene: a ship sinking in the ocean along with its cargo. Cups of caffeine were taken and dozens of ideas were shared until someone thought about sharing the cost when a ship should sink. Lloyd’s would become the major shipping and cargo insurance of today and it can trace its roots in that coffee house.
It’s known that coffee was a greater threat to governments than guns or arrows for that matter. In the 1500s, coffee became popular in Mecca. The caffeine tended to make people to think more and soon the conversation would spill over to politics. Not good for the sitting imams, who decided to ban coffee in the kingdom.
The storming of Bastille was also thought to have been caused by coffee. When the Marquis de Sade was denied his regular coffee one day in the course of his 12-year imprisonment, he was said to go mad and cry out to the people in the street that the king’s men were cutting the political prisoners’ throats. This roused the already brewing sentiments against the royals and led to the storming of the castle. If that story is a little blurred, the American Revolution account was quite accurate.
The Boston Tea Party of 1773, the popular time mark that led to the making of the United States of America, aroused patriots to shift from drinking tea, an act seen as pro-British Empire, to preferring coffee, as trivialized in this infographic.
Coffee trade makes many businessmen millionaires, but the farmers remain one of the world’s poorest. Free trade seems incapable of solving this dilemma that in the late eighties, the Dutch started selling coffee with fair trade labels, a socialist idea that farmers must be subsidized to allow them to continue growing coffee. Today, the U.K. headquarters manages and organizes this label, ensuring that when you buy a fair trade labeled coffee, the farmer is paid a minimum respectable price.
4 Oil Drilling
Fracking, it’s the newest technology in extracting crude oil from the ground. A liquid mix is forcibly shot underground to create cracks and fissures and release petroleum or natural gas. The U.S. has started applying fracking, using myriad liquid components that, in one analysis, include benign materials as coffee grounds and walnut shells. Fracking should be interesting as lobbyists claim: it will make America a top producer in natural gas in years to come. But it’s also full of risks especially that some other not-so-benign chemicals go with the coffee in the fracking liquid. One trivia though about fracking—the world’s number two commodity meets the world’s number one. Now that’s another good coffee topic.
Alex is a veteran financial author at FinancesOnline.com. His core areas include the stock market, small and medium enterprises and personal finance. He holds an MA in Economics at the University of Denver. He has had written for various local papers on politics, business and features for nearly twenty years now. Alex’s goal is to help average American families understand the in and out of personal finance to make more informed decisions and improve their financial health.