Italy has been one of the most influential countries in the world in terms of its impact on culture. They have impacted a range of things from art, history, religion, fashion, and even coffee. The macchiato is an Italian coffee drink that was established in the 80’s, when baristas needed a way to differentiate between espresso drinks that were just plain espresso, or ‘marked’ with milk. The macchiato has made its way around the world, having different variations and names for the drink, depending on where you are. A traditional Italian macchiato is supposed to consist of mostly espresso with just a shot of milk. In Australia, their version of a macchiato is the ‘Long Macchiato’, which has two shots of espresso with a dash of milk. In Portugal, their version of a macchiato is called a ‘Café Pintado’, which usually contains more milk than espresso. In Spain, their version of a macchiato is called a ‘Cortado’, which has equal parts milk and espresso. Each place has been able to take the drink and put their own spins on it, while still keeping the basics of the drinks the same at its core.
Like many places in the world, Italy imports the majority of their beans from Brazil. In 2009, 35.2% of the coffee beans imported to Italy were from Brazil, and Brazil continues to be the main supplier of coffee beans to Italy (The Italian Coffee Market 2010). Brazil is a leader in coffee bean production because of its environment. They have rich soil, higher elevations, and a better climate for producing coffee beans. There are over an estimated 300,000 coffee plantations across Brazil and combined produce around 40-60 million bags of coffee annually (Brazil’s Coffee Farm Region). To keep up with production there are hundreds of thousands of workers that are a part of the coffee supply chain, but not everyone apart of the chain experiences proper working conditions. For some, specifically for harvesters, their working conditions are very poor, and have been compared to modern slavery.
Workers on the coffee bean plantations work long hours doing very physically demanding work. They often get paid very little and have no sort of protections or benefits in place for the work that they’re doing. Since there’s such high demand for workers during coffee harvest season, from May to August, workers are hired informally or recruited by labor brokers. The surge in labor allows owners the ability to hire and fire people with no problem and many workers are hired without the proper paperwork, which means workers often stay silent about any complaints they may have, to keep their jobs. Labor brokers are people hired by coffee farmers and their job is to recruit people to work on the coffee farms. They often reel them in by using lies about what working will be like, for example how much money they’ll be making, or the working conditions, and they specifically target people from poor areas in northeast Brazil.
The sort of working conditions, laborers are exposed to include dangerous chemicals from the pesticides and fertilizer, working upwards of 15 hours in extreme heat, they’re given water that is contaminated with chemicals, they’re given little food, and are paid lower than the Brazil minimum wage. These horrible conditions have been reported to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD is an “international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives” (About OECD). There are human rights and sustainability guidelines that they follow and Brazil agreed to and signed, but then violated. This led to investigations of coffee plantations around Brazil, with the goal being to try and improve conditions for the workers, but there hasn’t seemed to be much improvement. Many workers are still stuck in these poor conditions without anywhere to turn because this is how they make their livelihood. Many workers are trying to survive and trying to support families and working on these plantations is oftentimes the only way they can do that.