Three Centuries of Coffee Trading
The story of the development of the world’s coffee trade is a story of about three centuries. When Columbus sailed for the new world, the coffee plant was unknown even as near its original home as his native Italy. In its probable birthplace in southern byssinia, the inhabitants had enjoyed its use for a long time, and it had spread to southwestern Arabia; but the Mediterranean knew nothing of it until after the beginning of the sixteenth century. It then crept slowly along the coast of Asia Minor, through Syria, Damascus, and Aleppo, until it reached Constantinople in about 1554. It became very popular; coffee houses were opened, and the first of many controversies arose. But coffee made its way against all opposition, and soon was firmly established in Turkish territory. In those deliberate times, the next step westward, from Asia to Europe, was not taken for more than fifty years. In general, its introduction and establishment in Europe occupied the whole of the seventeenth century.
The greatest pioneering work in coffee trading was done by the Netherlands East India Company, which began operations in 1602. The enterprise not only promoted the spread of coffee growing in two hemispheres; but it was active also in introducing the sale of the product in many European countries.
The 5 Countries That Produce the Most Coffee from Three Centuries of Coffee Trading, source:investopedia.com
Coffee reached Venice in about 1615, and Marseilles in about 1644. The French began importing coffee in commercial quantities in 1660. The Dutch began to import Mocha coffee regularly in Amsterdam in 1663; and by 1679 the French had developed a considerable trade in the berry between the Levant and the cities of Lyons and Marseilles. Meanwhile, the coffee drink had become fashionable in Paris, partly through its use by the Turkish ambassador, and the first Parisian café was opened in 1672. It is significant of its steady popularity since then that the name café, which is both French and Spanish for coffee, has come to mean a general eating or drinking place.
Since the spread of the use of coffee to western Europe in the seventeenth century, the development of the trade has been marked, broadly speaking, by two features:
1. The shifting of the weight of production, first to the West Indies, then to the East Indies, and then to Brazil.
2. The rise of the United States as the chief coffee consumer of the world.
Until the close of the seventeenth century, the little district in Arabia, whence the coffee beans had first made their way to Europe, continued to supply the whole world’s trade. But sprigs of coffee trees were beginning to go out from Arabia to other promising lands, both eastward and westward.
The year 1699 was an important one in the history of this expansion, as it was then that the Dutch successfully introduced the coffee plant from Arabia into Java. This started a Far Eastern industry, whose importance continues to this day, and also caused the mother country, Holland, to take up the role of one of the leading coffee traders of the world. Holland, in fact, took to coffee from the very first. It is claimed that the first samples were introduced into that country from Mocha in 1616—long before the beans were known in England or France—and that by 1663, regular shipments were being made. Soon after the coffee culture became firmly established in Java, regular shipments to the mother country began, the first of these being a consignment of 894 pounds in 1711. Under the auspices of the Netherlands East India Co. the system of cultivating coffee by forced labor was begun in the East Indian colonies. It flourished until well into the nineteenth century.
The introduction of the coffee plant into the new world took place between 1715 and 1723. It quickly spread to the islands and the mainland washed by the Caribbean. The latter part of the eighteenth century saw tens of millions of pounds of coffee being shipped yearly to the mother countries of western Europe; and for decades, the two great coffee trade currents of the world continued to run from the West Indies to France, England, Holland,and Germany; and from the Dutch East Indies to Holland. These currents continued to flow until the disruption of world trade routes by the World War; but they had been pushed into positions of secondary importance by the establishing of two new currents, running respectively from Brazil to Europe, and from Brazil to the United States, which constituted the nineteenth century’s contribution to the history of the world’s coffee trade.
The rise of Brazil to the place of all-important source of the world’s coffee was entirely a nineteenth-century development. When the coffee tree found its true home in southern Brazil in 1770, it began at once to spread widely over the area of excellent soil; but there was little exportation for thirty or forty years. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Brazil was contributing twice as much to the world’s commerce as her nearest competitor, the Dutch East Indies. The chief feature of the twentieth century’s developments has been the passing by the United States of the halfway mark in world consumption; this country, since the second year of the World War, having taken more than all the rest of the world put together. The world’s chief coffee “stream,” so to speak, is now from Santos and Rio de Janeiro to New York, other lesser streams being from these ports to Havre, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Hamburg; and from Java to Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
History of coffee and how it spread around the world from Three Centuries of Coffee Trading, source:turkishcoffeeworld.com
The world’s yearly production of coffee is, on the average, considerably more than 1 million tons. If this were all made up into the refreshing drink we get at our breakfast tables, there would be enough to supply every inhabitant of the earth with some sixty cups a year, representing a total of more than 90 billion cups. In terms of pounds, the annual world output amounts to about 2¼ billion—an amount so large that if it were done up in the familiar one-pound paper packages, and if these packages were laid end to end in a row, they would form a line long enough to reach to the moon. If this average yearly production were left in the sacks in which the coffee is shipped, the total of 17,500,000 would be enough to form a broad, six-foot pavement reaching entirely across the United States, upon which a man could walk steadily for more than five months at the rate of twenty miles a day. This vast amount of coffee comes very largely from the western hemisphere; and about three-fourths of it is from a single country. Brazil produces more than all the rest of the world put together. The production, shipment, and preparation of this coffee directly and indirectly supports millions of workers; and many countries are entirely dependent on it for their prosperity and economic well-being.
How to Make Seventeenth Century Coffee in Four Easy Steps from Three Centuries of Coffee Trading, source:huffpost.com
Of the million or more tons of coffee produced in the world each year, practically all with the exception of that which is used in the coffee-growing countries themselves—is consumed by the United States and western Europe, the British dominions, and the nonproducing countries of South America. Over that vast stretch of territory beginning with western Russia and extending over almost the whole of Asia, coffee is very little-known. In the consuming regions mentioned, moreover, consumption is concentrated in a few countries, which together account for some 90 percent of all the coffee that enters the world’s markets. These are: the United States, which now takes more than one-half, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Scandinavia.