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Coffee growing in the hills of Africa. Arabica prefers an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. Photo by Ana Labate | SXC.

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October 2005
Updated July 2009

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Beverages

 

The History of Coffee

Page 3: Coffee Expands Beyond Arabia To The World

 

This is Page 3 of a three-page article. Click on the black links to visit other pages.

 

Beyond Arabia: Coffee Comes To Asia

The Dutch were also growing coffee at Malabar in India, and in 1699 took some to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years the Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. Today Indonesia is the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world.

A European Debut

Venetian traders first brought coffee to Europe in 1615, around the same time hot chocolate arrived in France and Italy. Imagine what life was like then: cacao, in the form of a cold spiced beverage, was brought back to Spain from Mexico by Cortès in 1527 and only around 1615 had arrived in France and Italy in the form of hot chocolate.  Tea, which was brought back from China by Portuguese missionaries and traders, was first sold on the Continent in 1610.  And, for more than two centuries after that, these beverages were available only to the wealthy!

The Arabs were known to drink so much coffee that the Christian church denounced it as “the hellish black brew.” But Pope Clement VIII found it so delicious that he baptized it and made it a Christian beverage, saying “coffee is so delicious, it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

At first coffee was mainly sold by lemonade vendors and was believed to have medicinal qualities. Coffeehouses appeared as meeting places for men. The first opened in Oxford in 1650, in London in 1652, in Paris in 1672, in Vienna in 1675. The first coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683. The most famous, Caffe Florian in the Piazza San Marco, opened in 1720 and is still thriving today.  The first coffeehouse didn’t open in Berlin until 1721.  But then, coffee houses spread quickly across Europe, becoming centers for intellectual exchange. Many great minds of Europe met in the forum, over the beverage.

The largest insurance company in the world, Lloyd’s of London, began as a coffeehouse. It was started in 1688 by Edward Lloyd, who prepared lists of the ships that his customers had insured.

Lloyd's
Lloyd’s of London

Coffee Comes to America

In 1607, Captain John Smith founded the Virginia Colony at Jamestown. It is believed that he introduced coffee to North America: it was grown as a crop alongside tobacco. In the 1660’s, coffee houses were established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other towns. The Boston Tea Party Of 1773 was planned in a coffee house, the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York started in coffeehouses, in what is today the financial district known as Wall Street. Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonies by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown.

Coffee Spreads Throughout the World

Coffee spread through the world when, along with the increase in popularity of coffee in Europe, the Dutch began to cultivate it in their colonies during the 17th century. In 1715, the Jesuits started coffee cultivation in Haiti. In 1723, a French naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu do Clieu, transplanted a coffee tree to Martinique, and within 50 years an official survey recorded 19 million coffee trees on the island. Coffee was taken to Hawaii in 1825, to Indochina in 1887, to Australia in 1986, to New Guinea in the 1950’s. The espresso maker was invented in France in 1822; the Italians perfected the machine and made the beverage part of their culture.

Coffee Today

North Americans are the world’s largest consumers of coffee. Seattle gave birth to the new coffee movement in the 1970s, introducing the “latte” culture which has swept the country and dramatically improved the general quality of the coffee we drink.

This new “coffee culture” has begun to spread to the rest of the world—somewhat abetted by the expansion of Starbucks overseas, even to countries in Europe with a heritage of fine coffee. Coffee is one of the most valuable primary products in world trade, and in many years is second in value only to oil as a source of foreign exchange to developing countries. It is crucial to the economies and politics of many developing countries. Coffee is a traded commodity on major futures and commodity exchanges, especially the major exchanges in London and New York.

There are now organic coffees, fair trade-certified coffees, coffees with health benefits...a coffee for every psychographic and every demographic. Today, coffee ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide; as a global industry, it employs more than 20 million people. Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage, with more than 400 billion cups consumed every year. Kaldi, the Ethiopian goatherd, would be amazed.

Go To The Article Index Above


Books About Coffee

Uncommon Grounds Coffee Coffee A guide to Brewing
Uncommon Grounds: The history of coffee and how it transformed our world. Click here for more information. Coffee—A Dark History: Cover the ups and downs of coffees past 500 years. Click here for more information. Coffee—A Guide to Brewing and Enjoying: You know you like it, discover how much. Click here for more information.

 

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