Colonial produce (coffee, tea, cocoa), first half of the 20th century

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
1980 - 1989
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Cane sugar, coffee, spices – ever since the Middle Ages and during the colonial period in particular, Europe’s menus were enormously enhanced by natural produce from other regions of the world.

The history of colonial produce also reflects the way in which international power structures have shifted. After the ocean route to India was discovered in the 15th century Portugal dominated the international trade in spices such as pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Later on, England and the Netherlands dominated this sector. Next up as profitable products were sugar and coffee. They were harvested from plantations in the Caribbean among others. Hundreds of thousands of people were deported from Africa as slaves to perform the necessary labour. In 1791 an uprising of suppressed workers on Haiti triggered a crisis within this system of production. In the early 19th century cane sugar gradually faced growing competition from the sugar beet that was now being cultivated in Europe.

Even in countries that did not have their own overseas dependencies, so-called colonial and spicery stores were common, particularly in larger towns and cities. This exhibit at the Technisches Museum Wien is from the firm of Julius Meinl and contains samples of important colonial produce such as tea, coffee and cocoa. The company was founded in Vienna in 1862 as a coffee dealership. A good decade later, at the Universal Exposition of 1873, the capital’s inhabitants had an exceptional opportunity to acquaint themselves with the rich array of colonial commodities. More than seven million people visited the Exposition. Among the 53,000 exhibitors from more than thirty countries, Venezuela for example presented coffee, cocoa, rice, tobacco and sugar as well as rum and banana brandy. The British colony of India showcased a ‘colonial produce’ of a special kind, namely opium.

Date of origin: first half of the 20th century

Manufacturer: Julius Meinl, Vienna

Inv.Nr. 54163

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