History: the spread of coffee in the world

Towards the end of the XVIe century, stories (more and more frequent) of travelers and botanists on this new plant reach Europe from the Middle East. European merchants are starting to take an interest in this commodity. Already trading with the Middle East, the Venetians succeed in the early 1600s to bring the first bags of green coffee, though jealously guarded from Mecca.

Although the map above highlights the spread of Arabica coffee, it sums up my article pretty well. The map reveals that world coffee production comes only from a few coffee trees

A century of Arab control

From the beginning of the coffee trade, supplying the Venetians with coffee will mark the beginning of a lucrative trade completely managed by the Arab peoples who had the hand on this commodity. They will keep this control for almost a century by ensuring that no germ-free seed leaves the country. They made sure of this by selling already roasted or scalded coffee and moving the visitors away from the plantations.

Yemeni coffee merchants

The Dutch company: the breakout of the century

At the moment when the Venetians take delivery of their first batch of green coffee, a Dutch merchant manages to break the century by stealing, in 1616, some coffee plants of Moka. He brought them back intact to Amsterdam where they will be carefully preserved in the Botanical Garden.



During the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company established itself in Java and experimented with culture. As early as the 1690s, plantations followed one another in the colonies of Sumatra, Timir and Bali.

The Universal Coffee Nursery

In 1706, the Dutch farmers of Java ship home the first bean harvest. It is from this harvest that some coffee plants will soon be exported to the New World.

Subsequently, it was claimed that these plants were originally coffee plantations in the West. The Amsterdam Botanical Garden will be called by some as the “universal nursery of coffee”.

The king’s tree

In 1714, the burgomaster of Amsterdam offers to Louis XIV a coffee tree. The French, who have already seized the commercial stakes, had stolen Moka grains to plant them on the island of Reunion. However, they have difficulty growing this plant. The tree offered by the Dutch is greeted with great gratitude. He is entrusted to the care of the royal botanist of the garden of plants, where a greenhouse is specially built.



The tree will blossom, bear fruit and Louis XIV could feed his ambition to keep the coffee beans for his future coffee plantations in the colonies. This tree will be the origin of most coffee trees today grown in Central and Latin America.

In 1715, the Sultan of Yemen offered 60 feet of coffee to France, which transplanted them to Bourbon Island (present-day Réunion), administered by the French East India Company. Bourbon coffee will later be one of the coffees classified as grand cru.

Coffee migrates to the New World

A controversy revolves around whether it is the Dutch or the French who were the first to introduce coffee culture in the New World.

Gabriel Clieu

A year after the coffee was donated by the Dutch to the French, the Dutch send coffee plants (still from the Amsterdam Botanical Garden) to their territories in French Guiana.

In 1721, Louis XV had entrusted two coffee trees to an infantry captain, Gabriel de Clieu. It’s up to him to replant them in Martinique. Journey filled with adventures. The officer who will not prove unworthy of his mission. He will deprive himself of water during the crossing to water and save the only surviving plant. Miraculously, they will both survive the trip. The plant is transported to the captain’s garden. It acclimates and gives their first harvests in 1726.

Fifty years later, Martinique has some nineteen million coffee trees.

Subsequently, from Martinique and Dutch Guiana, coffee cultivation spread to the West Indies as well as to Central and Latin America.



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History: the spread of coffee in the world
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