The Story of The Coffee Plant.
How The Arabian Coffee Monopoly was Broken
The Coffee Plant Leaves Mecca
Baba Budan, according to the legend, was an Indian Sufi (Holy man) whose real name was Hazrat Shah Jamer Allah Mazarabi. At the beginning of the 17th Century Baba Budan went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Returning over the port of Mokka in Jemen he hid seven coffee beans (plants) in his clothing. This was quite a courageous act as the Arabs strictly controlled the export of coffee to other countries.
So far coffee only left Jemen as roasted or boiled to prevent germination. On arriving home in South India Baba Badun planted the beans on the steep, evergreen Chikkmagalugur hills where they flourished.
Thus, the Arabic coffee trade monopoly was broken and this was the beginning of India Coffee. Baba Budan is worshipped by both Muslims and Hindus in a shrine in Karnataka, India. Today, India now produces 15% of the worlds coffee.
1690 is an important year in the history of coffee. This was the year Arabia lost its monopoly for coffee production. Until now they had complete control on coffee plants as well as the beans.
From this time on the Arabs had to share their position with the Dutch.
In 1690 Dutch sailors secretly landed on the coast of Mekka and through a trick manage to obtain a coffee plant. This fact is considered of some importance as it would mean that all the coffee produced in the world outside Arabia originated from this one plant.
Coffee begins to travel around the world
Which way did the coffee go? Although the historians agree to the year and origin of coffee, the opinions are divided as to where to coffee plant went next. Some are of the opinion that the coffee plant went directly to Batavia (now Jakarta), while others say that the plant was taken to Amsterdam.
Heinrich Eduard Jacobs claims that the Dutchman Willem van Outborn had the idea to plant coffee in the Dutch East Indies after it had been grown in the greenhouses of the Botanical Garden in Amsterdam.
Coffee as a commodity
Regardless of which version is true or not, the result remains the same. The coffee plant acclimatized well to the hot weather and the damp soil in Java and multiplied amazingly fast. The tropical climate, planted a thousand meters above sea level and the volcanic soil favoured the growth of the coffee. Coffee plants quickly covered the Sunda Islands.
Within a few years coffee production increased considerably under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company, who supplied a large part of the European Market.
The Dutch merchant ships sailed the seas, sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to clear their precious cargo in the port of Rotterdam. As early as 1700 the Dutch dictated the world price for coffee. The Arabs slipped now into second position for coffee production. The monopoly of the Dutch was considerable, the European market was saturated and so they destroyed the coffee blossom to the disgust of the locals in order to control the price.
However, the warehouse in Java where the huge deposits of coffee sacks that were stacked was attacked.
As a result in 1782 the Central Bureau of Commerce situated in Rotterdam gave out the order to destroy the stored coffee as the price had fallen to its lowest level so far.
Coffee goes to America
At the beginning of the 18th century the Dutch send a branch of the coffee plant from Mokka to Surinam in order to cultivate coffee there. The French had already introduced coffee in 1723 to their colonies Antilles and Guiana.
A short time later in 1727 a Portuguese diplomat successfully smuggled several coffee seedlings in a bouquet of flowers into Brazil. In 1730 the English imported coffee trees from Ceylon to plant on the island of Jamaica.
Then with the help of the Spanish Jesuits in 1748 Cuba became a coffee producer followed by Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela and finally Columbia.