The Dark Shadows of Coffee

Slaves at a coffee yard in a farm. Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, 1882. / Marc Ferrez/Moreira Salles Institute Archive 


In America and at Cortez, all of us are immigrants who came from all ends of the earth for a better life for our families and us. Two exceptions exist, for the Native people of the land, and the enslaved who were brought here in chains. Our society is built on their labor and their genocides.

Colonial imperialists enslaved Natives and Africans to produce and profit from coffee production for many generations. We are dejected to tell you that slavery and indentured servitude through coercion, debt peonage, and inhumane labor practices still exist today. This is due to lower prices of coffee, and corruption along the coffee network that cares about profit margins, and neglects human life.

To collectively acknowledge the flaws and injustices in our industry is a step forward we can make to insure a lifelong path towards social justice. We stand in solidarity with the people of the world, starting with the Black community in the United States of America in the struggle for justice, equality, and the protection of basic human rights.

Books with in-depth knowledge on the history of coffee:

  • Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
  • Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants
  • The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop


Recommended coffee industry professionals making a difference:

  • Matti Foncha, Founder and Farmer, Cameroon Boyo Coffee (
  • Ron Cortez, Co-Founder and Researcher, More Than Fair Certified (