Until the early 1500s, coffee was a closely hoarded secret. Uncooked berries could not be taken out of the country, insuring an Arabian monopoly. Religious pilgrims visiting Mecca each year slowly eroded this isolation, and coffee seeds soon found their way to Turkey, Egypt and Syria. Many eastern cities opened coffeehouses, where patrons lingered over conversation and games of backgammon and chess. Here European traders were introduced to the wonderful brew and sought to export it for their own caffeine-free purposes and colonies. In 1516, with a plant obtained from Yemen, the Dutch became the first Europeans to transport and cultivate coffee commercially. By 1658 cultivation had spread to Indonesia, particularly Ceylon and their East Indian colony of Java, which would become the world’s center for coffee production.
The warmer Indonesian climate provided the perfect breeding ground for the delicate coffee trees and their tasty fruit became known worldwide as “”java.”” In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented Louis XIV with a Javanese coffee plant. King Louis’s love of coffee was life long and only interrupted by the loss of his head during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. He was thrilled with his gift and entrusted the plant’s care and cultivation to the botanist of the royal court. In a few short years, the offshoots of the Javanese coffee trees crossed the Atlantic. From there coffee spread into the New World and South America, particularly Brazil, which today is the world’s largest producer and exporter of coffee.
So with the next sip you take, pause and reflect. This wonderful drink has a noble and formidable past. If you forget the details, don’t worry about it. Just finish your cup and have a wonderful java-enriched day!