Since Guatemala we have seen coffee plants on a regular basis. sometimes in small coffee fields, and on other occasions in huge coffee plantations. So, effectively in all of Central America coffee is produced, and Colombia is no exception. in fact, Colombia is one of the biggest producers of coffee. It seems the coffee plants grow everywhere: on exposed sunny hill sides, in between big trees on lush (rain forest like) slopes, low, or high up the mountain. I even visited a bike park that was located inside a coffee plantation. And all these different climates produces their own coffee taste, besides the roasting influence of course. Naturally, in each country I bought the local coffee so I can confirm that each time it tastes a bit different. But, coffee does not originate from these regions… Interested in some history? Then read further and discover that the Dutch (of course?) had something to do with it.

The coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia somewhere in the tenth or eleventh century, and here the people started drinking coffee. The coffee spread to Yemen in the fifteenth century, where the coffee plants grew too. A century later, coffee was being drunk in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Coffee was not only drunk at home, but also in coffee houses. Local residents gathered in these coffee houses to share stories and experiences, or play games like chess. Meanwhile, thousands of pilgrims visit the holy city of Mecca every year, spreading the word about the “wine of Arabia” around the world. But the Arabs had no intention of exporting coffee plants…

In the seventeenth century, Europeans imported more and more coffee beans from Arabia. Opponents of coffee called the drink the “bitter invention of Satan,” but the group of supporters only grew in size. In 1615 the first coffee house was opened in Venice. This was followed by major cities in England, Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands. In 1663 the first coffee house opened in Amsterdam; a year later a coffee house in The Hague followed. In the mid-seventeenth century there were about 300 coffee houses in London alone. This increased the demand for coffee beans.

Thanks to the Netherlands, coffee became an even more popular drink. In the second half of the seventeenth century, the Dutch succeeded in collecting seeds from the coffee plant. These seeds were shipped to Batavia (Indonesia), creating coffee plantations on the island of Java. The Netherlands soon had a thriving coffee trade. The plantations spread to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.

But the mayor of Amsterdam made a big mistake. In 1714 he gave a young coffee plant as a gift to King Louis XIV of France. In 1723, Gabriel de Clieu secretly took a cutting of this plant to the ‘New World’. The cutting survived the journey, despite attacks by pirates and a serious shortage of drinking water. Apparently, De Clieu shared his last drinking water with his beloved coffee plant. The cutting eventually was planted on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. Fifty years after the arrival of the cutting, there were no less than eighteen million coffee plants in Martinique! From here, the coffee plant spread to South and Central America. In the eighteenth century, there was plenty of experimentations with coffee plants. Plantations were started in jungles and on mountains and plains. In some places the coffee plants flourished, while other plantations failed to thrive. In general, you can say that the Arabica grows good in mountainous areas (average of 1500masl) while the Robusta beans thrive in the lowlands.

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