It is no wonder that the coffee is called "the black gold". Few goods in the world - maybe just with gold, oil and precious stones - have been the cause of so much competition, so many intrigues and exciting stories ...
Cold and the hyperactive goats
According to legend, the qualities of the coffee were first discovered by an ethiopian goatheard named Kaldi more than 1200 years ago. As you know, goats eat everything - but Kaldi noticed that his goats behaved somewhat more energetically after eating a lot of berries from a coffee box. He even tried to eat a pair of berries and was sold on the spot.
A couple of hundred years later, the coffee crossed the Red Sea to the Arab countries, where the coffee was roasted and brewed as we know it today.
The Arabs roasted the beans, and shortly after, this dark and slightly bitter drink had a connection to religious dimensions.
Wherever the Arabs came, they took the coffee with them: North Africa, the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and India.
The Arabs were good merchants. Thus, they made all exported beans sterile, so recipients should not get the good idea even to start growing the coffee.
A smuggler ...
They also managed to preserve exclusively the coffee until the 1600s, where the Indian smuggler, Baba Budan, left Mecca with a bag of fresh beans hidden under the clothes.
Baba's beans brought fruit and resulted in fast-growing coffee production outside the Arab countries.
Soon after, the coffee reached Europe. It is believed to be a merchant from Venice who introduced the coffee to Italy around 1615.
The Dutch who were also far around in the world at that time were quick to compete. They founded the first real coffee plantation at their then colony, Java.
Soon the plantations spread beyond the nearby islands of Indonesia. Funnily enough, the Dutch were generous enough to share the coffee plants. Most high-rise nobles and Kings of Europe were given coffee plants.
One more smuggler ...
The French King Louis XIV received his first coffee plant around 1714, where he received an honorary place in Jardin des Plantes - the royal botanical garden in Paris. Several years later, a young naval officer Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu in Paris was on leave from his post on the island of Martinique, a French colony in the Caribbean.
He saw the possibilities of growing coffee in Martinique, but when he asked for a few cuttings from the king's coffee tree he got a hard and firm "Non !!!" from the king.
But there would be more than one royal refusal to stop the resolute de Clieu. One dark night he sneaked into the greenhouse of Jardin des Plantes and got out with a perfect single cutting.
On the way back to Martinique, his ship was first overtaken by pirates and then only barely escaped a violent storm. During the rest of the trip, the wind eased and the endeavour proceeded slowly, why food and drinking water was rationed and they had to share their modest rations with the coffee plant.
They finally reached Martinique and the small plant grew up under armed guard. This single plant should become ancestor of no less than 18 million coffeebushes over the next 50 years!
... and one more smuggler !!!
In 1727, Brazil's ruler would have a part in the coffee market, but first he had to find a man willing to smuggle cuttings from a coffee-producing country. This man was Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta - the coffee industry's James Bond.
Palheta was sent to French Guiana under the pretext of having to resolve a minor border conflict. After watching the careful care of the coffee plants, Palheta decided for Plan B. Plan B was a secret romance with the governor's wife - it worked!
At Palheta's farewell dinner in the governor's house he received beautiful bouquet of flowers - in between the flowers were stuck cuttings from the colony's best coffeebushes ...
From this bouquet emerged the world's largest coffeeempire. In the 1800's, Brazil's enormous harvest flooded the coffee market, and prices fell. The coffee became a drink for the people instead of only for the elite.
That situation never changed.