How the Coffee Tree Spread to Four Continents and Oceania
While there are many legends about the discovery of coffee, the most popular involves a man named Kaldi and his goats. Legend has it that Kaldi came across his goats exhibiting the signs of over indulgence in coffee after snacking on the fruits of a coffee tree.
The discovery was shared with the village, then the rest of Ethiopia. The bean found its way to Yemen, then to Turkey when the Ottoman empire occupied Yemen during the 16th century. Merchants from Europe purchased coffee beans from the Ottoman Empire in the port city of Alexandria, located in Egypt.
Because coffee was such a valuable commodity the Ottoman Empire kept a close guard on the coffee plant. Strict measures were put into place to defend the plants they had monopolized. All coffee seeds had to be put into a condition where the would not germinate before they were allowed to leave the empire. However, during the 17th century, a Muslim pilgrim smuggled several good seeds out of the country by taping them to his stomach. He brought them to southern India, where they were cultivated.
In 1616, Dutch traders were able to transport a tree from India to Holland. Clones of this tree were brought to Java and Sumatra. The Dutch, as they did with many other commodities, made its availability in Europe widespread.
Gabriel de Clieu, A French naval officer with a taste for coffee, had the idea to bring the coffee plant to the Americas. Much like other commodities such as tobacco and cotton, European explorers were looking for other places in the world where coffee plants could grow.
In 1720 de Clieu set sail for the island of Martinique located at the Eastern edge of the Caribbean. He shared his water ration for the the journey with his coffee plant. Upon arrival the coffee tree was planted and eventually cloned.
Coffee is now grown in large quantities on four continent and Oceania. The result of coffee's expansion is the wide array of coffees we enjoy today.
For this and other stories and information on all things coffee, buy or borrow from your library Mark Pendergast’s Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.
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