An Old African Legend
Coffee plant has been discovered much earlier than the civilized world got to know it. This memorable event occurred approximately in the 800 A.D. According to an African legend, Kaldi, the goat shepherd, had been grazing his flock when suddenly he noticed that the goats began dancing around coffee bushes growing nearby. This seemed strange to their herdsman who decided to taste these magic berries that agitated his cattle so much. Soon he has also been caught in the general hilarity.
The Arabic Coffee Empire
After just a couple of centuries (circa 1000 and till 1600 A.D.), coffee moved to Arabic countries. Namely there it took its modern shape – the beans were first roasted and brewed for drinking but before this popular method came into life, the beans were pressed with animal fat and milk and rolled into balls. The Arabs took these beads with them while traveling as some kind of energetic remedy. Only after a couple of centuries the Muslims discovered that the beans could be drank and prepared but this beverage is still far from the modern drink.
The Arabic population also used the plant as a kind of holy water in their everyday life: dervishes were falling into a trance with its help, growing in wisdom and finding the right way to wander; the religious people had to have more energy and strength to stay awake while praying and doing their business and the coffee beans were right there for them giving the energy they needed. Thus, coffee has been everywhere in Muslims life and was the integral part of their culture. And anywhere the Arabs spread their culture and religion, they brought with them coffee beans as well. However, not until that in the 1600s the outer world got the possibility to drink coffee – the beans were constantly exported but in such a way (roasted or boiled) that no European or other nations except Africa or Arabic regions had the access to the plant itself.
Coffee and a Piece of Smuggling
According to an old legend, a half wanderer and the other half contrabandist of an Indian origin named Baba Budan left Mecca – the cradle of Islamic religion, a shrine for pilgrimage- with the fruitful coffee seeds under his clothes. Thus coffee reached India.
Europe: The Thirst for Money
At the beginning of the 17th century (in 1615) an Italian trader showed the world the coffee beverage brought from Turkey. But the product in its final shape wasn’t worth a brass farthing in the judgment of the merchants who were eager for profit. Thus, the rush for the coffee seeds started.
The Dutch at the Head of the Line
The Dutch dealers left behind the whole Europe bringing in the coffee plant for the first time in 1616 and later, in 1696 they even established the first coffee property located on Java colony (Indonesian territory now) possessed by Europeans. Hereby, the coffee growing gave the Dutch a lucky chance to gain a lot of money and omnipotence in the whole Europe. But every story has its own ending. The biggest mistake was presenting coffee trees to the European aristocrats and forgetting that this might lead to spreading the coffee plant outside Europe.
The Way the Coffee Plant reached Martinique
In circa 1714 Louis XIV received a coffee tree as a gift from the Dutch – for the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. Some time later a naval officer Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu turned out to visit Paris on his voyage to Martinique. He was so eager to get some coffee tree clippings (but was not allowed) that even took the liberty to sneak into the Garden and steal a coffee branch. While on officer’s travel to Martinique, a passenger impatient for capturing the coffee seedling broke down a stick from the cherished plant; the French ship was grappled by pirates, then the storm came down to them. All in all, the young mariner gave up a half of his fortune because of this magic tree.
However, the shoot took its root deep into the Martinique soil and brought forth over 18 millions of trees in circa 50 years. Its offspring later will contribute to its popularization into Latin America’s mass market.
All Roads Lead to…Brazil
This event might never happen if it were not for the desire of the Brazilian government in the 1727 to enter the coffee market. Naturally there was no legal way to do that and Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta enters the scene. His mission was to obtain coffee seedlings by any means and he did it but not without the help of a woman. Being dispatched to French Guiana, the brave colonel starts his coffee mission and goes easy choosing the least resistance – the governor’s spouse. The officer’s sweetheart falls into net of the charming Brazilian and convinced by him that several coffee branches will remind Pahleta of her, gives the artful man the coffee seedlings hidden in a bouquet of flowers. From this moment rises the glorious Brazilian coffee empire – the absolute coffee leader that introduces coffee to the mass market. The curtain falls, the auditorium burst into ovations.