WaPo sends heads to desks with ‘dark history’ behind pumpkin spice lattes

The Washington Post took a step off a journalistic cliff in a report that somehow demonized a favorite fall coffee drink.

Pumpkin Spice everything is making its annual comeback, but The Washington Post‘s Gillian Brockell issued a hot take on the real story behind the lattes and their signature flavors.

Photo credit: Getty images.

It’s not the calories or the caffeine intake that the article in the paper’s “Retropolis” section focused on, but the “dark history” of the spices used, like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (especially nutmeg) which had its “violent” past linked to “war, genocide and slavery.”

“The variety of nutmeg we’re familiar with is native to the Banda Islands in what is now Indonesia,” Brockell wrote, noting that “the Bandanese became rich trading the spice” as it became more popular in Europe and Asia.

Brockell runs through the mini-history lesson, noting the roles played by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English in the succession of power in the age of colonialism.

“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,” the article went on. “They ignored the contracts anyway, continuing to trade with whomever they always had, plus a new partner on the scene — the English.”

“In 1621, Dutch Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen led 2,000 troops on an assault on the Bandanese,” Brockell wrote. “Their leaders were beheaded, and the wealthy were enslaved and sent overseas. The remaining inhabitants fled into the mountains, where, over the following months, nearly all met one of three fates: They were murdered in Dutch attacks, starved to death, or jumped off cliffs in despair.”

The author concluded the gruesome history lesson noting that the massacre led to a “near-extinction of the Bandanese” while the English “continued to fight with the Dutch for control of the nutmeg monopoly.”

The dramatic connection between European greed and the “fuzzy-sweater vibes” of the pumpkin-spice latte drew a collective face-palm on social media where Twitter users declared the death of journalism at the Washington Post.

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Frieda Powers


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