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ROASTSCOFFEE TALK


Brazil’s coffee empire
bloomed from a bouquet.


COFFEE BLOOMS IN BRAZIL
(Circa 1727 to 1800)

1727: Brazil’s government wants a cut of the coffee market; but first, they need an agent to smuggle seeds from a coffee country. Enter Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta, the James Bond of Beans.

Colonel Palheta is dispatched to French Guiana, ostensibly to mediate a border dispute. Eschewing the fortresslike coffee farms, suave Palheta chooses a path of less resistance—the governor’s wife. The plan pays off. At a state farewell dinner she presents him a sly token of affection: a bouquet spiked with seedlings.

From these scant shoots sprout the world’s greatest coffee empire. By 1800 Brazil’s monster harvests would turn coffee from an elite indulgence to an everyday elixir, a drink for the people.

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© 1999 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.