Friday, December 24, 2010

A Coffee History – Part Deux (Hooray!)

So last we had heard of the Tale of Coffee the Dutch had smuggled the coffee bean from the Middle East to the island of Java… (thanks again to the Green Mantle for great great Factoids)
  • So apparently coffee drinking in Europe began in Venice in the 17th century (they were the first port to receive the Dutch coffee imports). But what really kicked coffee drinking into high gear was when the French King Louis the 14th (the Sun King) became a fan. His gateway to the world of caffeine either came via the Turkish ambassador in 1669 or the Mayor of Amsterdam in 1714 (depending on what story you follow) but regardless of origin the French were hooked like Black Tar Heroin. In a jiffy coffee seedlings were being grown in Paris at the Jardin des Plantes and the first Parisian coffee shop Le Procope was opened in 1686 (it’s still open today).
  • It was also the French who were responsible for promoting coffee to the North American colonists early in the early 18th century. Americans fell in love with coffee in a way that their English homeland (but only for a few more decades…) never would. But all during this time coffee prices remained under the control of the Dutch (with a limited number of growers keeping the prices artificially high). Thus, coffee drinking was still largely a luxury to be enjoyed by only society’s wealthy elite.
  • It seemed that smuggling was a necessary evil for the coffee plant but its trip to South America (now the largest coffee growing region in the world) was far more romantic. Like the Arabs in the earlier centuries the Dutch were determined to maintain their coffee monopoly and (naturally) they prohibited the export of seedlings from their territories. But as fate would have it in the 1720s a Brazilian emissary to the Dutch coffee-growing colony in Guyana had an affair with the wife of the governor. The mistress secretly hid coffee seeds in a gift of flowers to her Brazilian diplomatic lover when he departed. It was this token of affection that created Brazil’s coffee empire and allowed coffee drinking within the financial reach of ordinary people.
So what did we learn today Kids?

Remember to thank l'Amour for your Java fix!

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