The Six Century Circumnavigation
Coffee Arabica is said to have originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia, under the natural shade of the rain forests thousands of feet above sea level.
From Ethiopia to Yemen where the Europeans discovered it growing, the tenacious arabica plant began an enormous journey at an electrifying rate that would eventually cover the globe.
From medicine to a beverage used with meditation and religious exercises to the coffee houses in the streets of Cairo, everyone who tasted it wanted it.
The arabica plants’ journey was made easier because of its natural stubborn, self pollinating persona. From Yemen to India to Java and eventually to Europe, the plant was on the move.
King Louis XIV had a huge curiosity and love of luxury, coffee was on his list. The Dutch happened to owe him a favor and so turned up with a single coffee plant that he oggled over for a time and then had the first greenhouse in Europe constructed for this almost holy plant.
The French had tried to grow the plant in Southern France but had failed due to frost, one thing the plant will not tolerate. And so this plant flowered and bore fruit in a little greenhouse in Paris. This was in 1715 and it’s journey had just begun.
Sprouts from this precious tree reached the shores of Martinique in the Carribean in 1720 after a man named Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew De Clieu made a stupendous journey across the Atlantic. Eluding pirates, storms and the doldrums, the crew eventually became short on rations including water and all but one of the seedlings died. De Clieu couldn’t stand to see the last shoot die and so shared his water rations till the land was reached and the little shoot was safely ashore.
There it flourished and 50 years later became 18 million plants in Martinique. This noble tree spread throughout the Carribean and into Mexico, Central and South America and eventually coffee seed from Brazil was introduced into Kenya and Tanganyika only a few hundred miles from where it originated in- Ethiopia.
So ends the six-century circumnavigation of coffee, a huge industry that we all need to learn more about and be passionate about in order to find a balance for all the people involved in this industry. Like many things in our unbalanced world, harmony is difficult to find but impossible if we don’t try.