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McMaster University

1. Kloiber, Andrew. COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990.

Degree: PhD, 2017, McMaster University

Placing coffee at the centre of its analysis, this dissertation reveals the intersections between consumption, culture, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR)’s involvement in the developing world. State planners took steps to promote coffee as a good consumed not only for its value as a stimulant but also for enjoyment. Enjoying a warm cup of coffee represented East Germans’ participation in socialist society, and in a global coffee culture. Moreover, by adopting and weaving the older ideals and traditions associated with coffee into its messages of a bright socialist future based on modernity, progress and culture, the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) used coffee as part of its long-term goals of reforming society along socialist lines. When a major frost destroyed two thirds of Brazil’s coffee trees in July 1975, causing world prices to quadruple by 1977, GDR planners faced a genuine ‘Coffee Crisis’ that challenged the state’s political well-being. The regime replaced the most affordable brand ‘Kosta’ with ‘Kaffee-Mix,’ a blend of 51 per cent coffee and 49 per cent surrogate. Vehement public rejection of the replacement necessitated the hasty conclusion of new trade deals to solve the supply problem, deals which brought the GDR into contact with the developing world in ways it had not anticipated. This project considers four case studies – the GDR’s coffee deals with Angola, Ethiopia, Laos and Vietnam, and I argue that these coffee deals reveal as much about the GDR’s engagements with the global south as they do about its own self-image as a modern state in a divided, yet globalizing world. The GDR consciously approached these relationships as an industrially developed nation needing to ‘guide’ these newly independent states toward (a socialist) modernisation. Furthermore, these trade agreements reveal the balance between pragmatism and ideology which characterized the GDR’s pursuit of coffee; ideology often informed state representatives and framed the negotiations, but pragmatic concerns generally found primacy throughout the process. The GDR invested heavily in these developing countries’ coffee industries, sending technical equipment, along with agricultural and technical experts to help these countries meet East Germans’ import needs. In Angola and Ethiopia, the GDR provided weapons for coffee, while contracts with Laos and Vietnam led to lengthy development projects to ‘modernize’ each country’s coffee industry. This investment in turn helped change the balance of the world coffee trade; the most striking example of this process was the explosion of the Vietnamese coffee industry through the 1980s, which ultimately made Vietnam the world’s second largest producer of coffee next to Brazil. The need for coffee in the GDR, then, sparked a specific expansion of its involvement in the Global South, a process that complicates scholars’ positioning of the GDR within international relations. The example of coffee and the trade agreements it spurred suggests the need to move beyond questions about the… Advisors/Committee Members: Swett, Pamela, History.

Subjects/Keywords: Germany; German Democratic Republic; Coffee; Commodity culture; trade; development; cold war; communism; socialism; food studies; history of food; Laos; Vietnam; Angola; Ethiopia; transnational history; globalization; colonialism; GDR; East Germany

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APA (6th Edition):

Kloiber, A. (2017). COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990. (Doctoral Dissertation). McMaster University. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Kloiber, Andrew. “COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990.” 2017. Doctoral Dissertation, McMaster University. Accessed July 22, 2018.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Kloiber, Andrew. “COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990.” 2017. Web. 22 Jul 2018.


Kloiber A. COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. McMaster University; 2017. [cited 2018 Jul 22]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Kloiber A. COFFEE, EAST GERMANS AND THE COLD WAR WORLD, 1945-1990. [Doctoral Dissertation]. McMaster University; 2017. Available from: