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 found his goats acting strangely and discovered that they were snacking on the fruit of a strange tree.
Kaldi’s shared his discovery with the village and the first cup of coffee was brewed. Coffee spread through the rest of Ethiopia, then to Yemen. It spread to Turkey in the 16th century when the Ottoman Empire occupied Yemen. Merchants from Europe purchased coffee beans from the Ottoman Empire in the port city of Alexandria, 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 plant they had monopolized. Before coffee seeds left the empire, they had to be put into a condition where they would not germinate. However, during the 17th century, a Muslim pilgrim smuggled several germinated 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 transported 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 coffee’s availability in Europe widespread.
Gabriel de Clieu, A French naval officer with a taste for coffee, dreamed of bringing coffee to the Americas. Like tobacco and cotton, European explorers were looking for new places that would support coffee plants.
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 journey with his coffee plant. Upon arrival, the coffee tree was planted and eventually cloned.
Coffee is now grown in large quantities on four continents 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.
Shop for Spirit Mountain coffee.
Is there anything that we missed here? Visit our contact page to send us a message with suggestions, questions, comments, or testimonials.
Learn more about the company and our staff.