Liquid GoldJanuary 17, 2023
Coffee is the second most in demand commodity on the planet next to petroleum. From its humble beginnings in Ethiopia’s Kappa region to today’s global acceptance, coffee is a super star on the world stage of commodities. As the story goes, it all began when a sheep herder on the Ethiopian plateau noticed when his sheep ate the a specific berry from a certain tree that they had a hard time settling down at night. Curious, he mentioned this to an abbot at a local monastery who took it upon himself to taste the berries and discovered he too was more alert during the day and able to be awake longer when required. Thus began the journey of the humble coffee bean where today it is grown on a global scale generating millions of jobs and revenue for countries around the world.
Coffee’s global migration began across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen at a point of entry called Mocha, a word today that is synonymous with coffee. Word soon spread east to the Arabian peninsula which would eventually find its way in the 16th century to Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Soon coffee houses called qahveh khaneh sprung up in villages, towns, and cities making them popular social activity centres. The coffee houses very quickly became learning centres and the exchange of information called Schools of the Wise. Contributing to the message of coffee’s acceptance were the thousands of muslim pilgrims to the holy city of Meccha each year. These pilgrims in turn brought back to their homelands the pleasure and benefits of coffee.
Not all was rosy on coffee’s journey of acceptance. For example, in Italy in 1615 it was condemned and labelled the bitter invention of Satan. Pope Clement VIII had to intervene and grant his papal approval for it to be accepted by the general population. Once again, coffee houses sprang up all over Europe and became centres where its citizens gathered to socialize and talk business. Many businesses evolved out of these coffee houses, Lloyd’s of London was once Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.
In the 1600’s the Dutch introduced coffee to the New World at New Amsterdam, later to be called New York when the British took control of the area. Tea was the major drink at the time but the infamous Boston Tea Party changed all that as the colonists revolted against King George III’s tea tax. Soon coffee replaced tea as the favoured drink of choice as a show of defiance against the king’s heavy handed tea tax.
As demand increased for coffee, the Dutch started coffee plantations in Java, Indonesia to meet that demand. They then expanded their coffee plantations to Sumatra and Celebes. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam gave as a gift a coffee plant to King Louis IV of France. He in turn had the plant transplanted at the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. From here, the naval officer Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the plant and set for the Caribbean. This single seedling is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinque. Interestingly, this same seedling can be attributed to all the coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. By the end of the 1700’s coffee had become one of the most profitable cash crops in the world; to where today its taste and energizing properties are highly valued in every corner of the globe.