Pumpkin spice wars: The violent history behind your favorite Starbucks latteBreaking News
tags: genocide, Starbucks, Pumpkin spice
Pumpkin-spice latte season is starting even earlier this year, with the famous drink spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves pouring into Starbucks coffee shops Tuesday.
But underneath those fuzzy-sweater vibes, the spices in “the PSL” have a dark history. Particularly nutmeg. It’s a story of war, genocide and slavery.
The variety of nutmeg we’re familiar with is native to the Banda Islands in what is now Indonesia. In the Middle Ages, the Bandanese became rich trading the spice — plus mace, which comes from the same plant, and cloves, which also grew there, according to Atlas Obscura. Nutmeg made it to the lips of Chinese and Malay elites, and to Europeans via Arab traders, who kept the location of the source secret.
All that changed in 1511, when Portuguese explorer António de Abreu became the first European to land on the Banda Islands, according to food historian Michael Krondl. Portugal, which was absorbed into the Spanish empire in 1568, had a foothold in the nutmeg trade for nearly 100 years, but the Bandanese resisted their efforts to gain more control.
The Dutch showed up in 1599, and everything got gruesome soon afterward. They seized the islands, built a fort and informed the Bandanese they were no longer allowed to trade with anyone else, according to historian Vincent C. Loth. The Bandanese signed contracts agreeing to the arrangement, though it is unclear if they understood what they were agreeing to, Loth wrote. They ignored the contracts anyway, continuing to trade with whomever they always had, plus a new partner on the scene — the English.
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