My Cart


Coffee History: Europe's Battle for the Bean

Posted on

In the early days of Coffee History, European coffee lovers had to buy already-roasted beans from traders who had access to the coffee growers in the Middle East and North Africa.

This didn't work out for long. Coffee houses were spreading throughout Europe, and coffee began replacing beer and wine as breakfast drinks. With demand for the drink growing, the next step was to buy some coffee trees or raw beans to begin growing coffee in Europe and its colonies.

But the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Yemeni coffee trade, wasn't about to give up control.

That's when smugglers started getting creative. According to Mark Pendergrast's history of coffee, Uncommon Grounds, one Muslim pilgrim headed to southern India successfully smuggled out seven seeds under his clothing.

European countries competed to get ahold of seeds or a coffee tree, and victorious were, of course, the Dutch East India Company. They transported a tree from Aden to Holland in 1616, and began growing coffee from that tree's offspring in their colony of Ceylon -- now Sri Lanka -- in 1658.

The East India Company spread their coffee plantations to Holland's colonies in Java, Sumatra, Timor, Bali and other islands in the East Indies, taking control of the world market.

The Dutch connection may be how coffee first reached the New World. Coffee made it to New Amsterdam in the mid-1600s, right around the time the colony changed hands from the Dutch to the British. 

But tea reigned supreme, at least until the first American coffeehouses opened in Boston -- including the Green Dragon, where leaders of the Revolution found a welcoming spot to hold meetings after the Boston Tea Party.

To join in this long coffee tradition, contact us for help picking the perfect bean.


Leave a comment

Hello You!

Join our mailing list