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Hauling Bags of Coffee Berries, Brazil, 1900

Brazil - Hauling Bags of Fresh Coffee Berries from Plantation

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_A3994
Document Description
Brazilian plantation workers load bags of coffee berries onto carts pulled by mules, 1900.
What are the people in the picture doing?
What are they carrying on the cart?
How does farming in this picture look different from the way farming is done now?  Why would people be using carts instead of trucks?
How can you tell that this picture was taken over 100 years ago?  What problems and/or disadvantages do you think occur with this type of farming?
Look at the clothing in the picture. What was life like for these people?  Why would children be in this picture?
Historical Challenges
Find out about the differences between the wet and dry methods of producing coffee. Compare the end results, especially the quality of the coffee and the final costs of the coffee.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Using whole beans and a coffee grinder, find out the average number of beans it takes to make a cup of coffee. Calculate how many coffee beans would be necessary to make enough coffee for all the teachers in the school.
Science: Examine different types of coffee beans. Make observations based on sight, smell, etc.
English Language Arts: Create a poster based on different coffee beans. Write short explanations of how the beans are classified.
Bauer, Brandy. Brazil: Questions and Answers about Countries. Capstone Press, 2004. ISBN: 0736824812
Black, Carolyn. Brazil: The Land. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN: 0778793389
Heinrichs, Ann. Brazil. New York: Children’s Press, 1997. ISBN: 0516203282
Holiday, Jane. Exploring Brazil with the 5 Themes of Geography. Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2005. ISBN: 0823946398
Jermyn, Leslie. Brazil. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens Pub., 1999. ISBN: 0836822587


Historical Context
All coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn – perfect for Brazil.  Since the second half of the nineteenth century, coffee has been Brazil’s major export.  With over 3 billion coffee plants, Brazil produces 30% to 40% of the world’s coffee.  

Coffee beans are the seeds of berries that grow on coffee trees.  As the green berries ripen, they turn a dark red and look like a cherry.  Inside the coffee berry are two seeds (or beans) covered with a thin skin.

Brazilians use a dry method of removing the seeds, and they emphasize quantity over quality.  Coffee berries are picked by machine, so sometimes the unripe ones get picked along with the ripe ones.  The berries are then spread out to dry on big tarps.  Each day they need to be turned, and at night they need to be picked up to protect them from the dew.  The next day, they have to be spread out again.  When the skins are hard, machines are used to remove the seeds.  

There are about 4,000 beans (2,000 coffee berries) in a pound of coffee.  One coffee tree yields about a pound of coffee every season. 
Essential Question
How does geography impact human settlement and economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the impact of geography on the local economy.