Coffee: An Indian Ocean Perspective

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Abstract

Studies of coffee production and consumption are dominated by emphases on Latin American production and American consumption. This paper challenges the Atlantic perspective, demanding an equal emphasis on the Indian Ocean world of Eastern Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. A geographical approach to historical as well as contemporary patterns of coffee production and consumption provides an opportunity to rethink the nature of coffee as a global commodity. The Indian Ocean world has a much deeper history of coffee, and in recent decades, has witnessed a resurgence in production. The nature of this production is distinct, providing an opportunity to rethink dependency theories. Coffee in the Indian Ocean world is more likely to be produced by smallholders, countries are less likely to be economically dependent on coffee, farmers are more likely to harvest polycultures, and countries represent both consumers and producers. A balanced emphasis of Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds allows us to better understand coffee production and consumption, together telling a more balanced, global story of this important commodity.

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