Coffee’s Turbulent History during the 1700s
1700 Philadelphia gets its first coffeehouse known as Ye Coffee House courtesy of Samuel Carpenter. It’s located on the east side of Front Street and is the only one around for a few years.
1702 Philadelphia’s second coffeehouse opens called the London Coffee House and later becomes the place for the well-to-do people of Philly to hang out.
1710 In France the infusion brewing technique is being used. This means ground coffee is placed in a fustian (linen) bag, the bag is infused in hot water until you get your required strength of coffee.
1713 The Mayor of Amsterdam thinks it would be a great idea to give King Louis XIV of France a Java coffee plant from Yemen.
The king instructs his botanist to plant it in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. This very plant would later (see 1723) be credited with supplying half the world’s coffee by 1788 — pretty impressive.
Sadly Edward Lloyd of Lloyd’s Coffee House dies leaving a great legacy behind him.
1718 The Dutch colony in Surinam begins plantations in French Guiana and increases production from there to include both Central and South America.
1720 December 29: Alla Venezia Trionfante, aka Venice the Triumphant coffeehouse opens, but it later becomes better known as Caffe Florian after its original owner Floriano Francesconi. It is the only coffeehouse that allows women to drink in it.
It also has some famous visitors like Charles Dickens and Casanova. It is still serving coffee today and is one of the oldest and most beautiful coffeehouses around.
1721 Berlin’s first coffee shop opens in Lustgarten by an Italian named Olivier.
1723 The history of coffee becomes even more interesting now due to the actions of a young French naval officer called Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu (Captain Gabriel des Clieux).
De Clieu is on leave in Paris when he visits the court of King Louis XIV, where he is unable to persuade staff to provide him with some clippings from the coffee plant, so he cunningly decides he will steal them instead.
After he gets his hands on the clippings he returns hastily to his ship and sets sail back to the French colony of Martinique in the West Indies. However, it isn’t all plain sailing and Gabriel certainly faces his fair share of challenges along the way.
To keep the coffee plant safe Gabriel is said to have kept it in a glass cabinet below deck, only bringing it for some sunshine when needed.
Keeping the plant safe was the top priority during the violent storms and the plant was tied down to stop it falling and being damaged.
The ship also came under attack from Tunisian pirates; after the attack water had to be rationed and Gabriel used his rations to ensure the plant’s survival.
Luckily De Clieu and his coffee plant survive everything that is thrown at them and the plant flourishes after cultivation.
Amazingly this stolen plant goes on to yield an offspring of 18,680 coffee trees on Martinique fifty years after it is first planted, and from this coffee cultivation spreads quickly throughout the Caribbean, Haiti and Mexico.
The original plant is now the progeny of approximately 90% of all of today’s coffee plants globally.
1727 Coffee comes to Brazil, or shall we say smuggled into Brazil, by a Brazilian government agent named Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta. He is sent to French Guiana under the guise of solving the border dispute between them and Dutch Guiana, but his real mission is to get his hands on some of those fine coffee beans.
Acquiring the beans is proving difficult so Palheta takes a different course of action and seduces the French Guiana governor’s wife.
Palheta’s plan works when at a state dinner the governor’s wife gives him a parting gift, a bouquet…..with coffee seedlings hidden within it.
The seedlings are transported back to Brazil and planted in the state of Para.
Thanks to Palheta and his dirty deed, these seedlings enable Brazil to later become the largest coffee producer in the world.
1730 Nicholas Lawes, a former British governor of Jamaica brings coffee cultivation to the beautiful Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The coffee trees are imported from Martinique and soon thrive due to the mountain climate.
The downside is that as production increases slavery does also, and each year a staggering 30,000 Africans are shipped in to work as slaves on the plantations.
1732 Johann Sebastian Bach composes the Coffee Cantata. It is more of a miniature comic opera although classified as a cantata.
The cantata is a satirical story of a father who tries his hardest to get his headstrong daughter Aria to give up coffee and get married.
Aria’s not giving up coffee without a fight and has it inserted into the marriage contract that she will be able to brew coffee whenever she wants.
1737 A mariner named Daniel Bloom buys the Jamaica Pilot Boat tavern in New York from John Dunks and renames it Merchants Coffee House.
Bloom struggles to win over customers from the Exchange Coffee House which is located at the foot of Broad Street, down near the waterfront. But as Merchants is located close to a meat market, its popularity soon begins to grow at the expense of the Exchange.
1753 Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) publishes Species Plantarum. This publication describes the coffee plant belonging to the genus Coffea; the most common species is the arabica which makes up 70% of the world’s coffee production.
1773 December 16: The Boston Tea Party takes place due to a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston against the unrepresented taxation of tea in America by the British.
The Brits are imposing the tax in an attempt to financially rescue the East India Company.
Some of the protesters dressed as Native Americans board three ships and throw the tea from 342 chests into Boston’s harbor.
Coffee drinking in America now becomes a patriotic duty, but the other reason Americans drink more coffee than tea is that it’s cheaper and easier to import coffee from Brazil and the Caribbean than it is to import tea from India and China.
1777 King Frederick the Great of Prussia grows concerned about the amount of money going to outside coffee merchants at the same time as Prussia’s wealth is declining, so he comes up with a manifesto claiming that beer should be the beverage to drink and not coffee.
The king’s statement quotes, “His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both of his ancestors and officers,” he also goes on to state that he doesn’t believe “coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon to endure hardship, or to beat his enemies in case of the occurrence of another war.”
For a time beer takes first place over coffee and coffee is now a luxury only the rich can afford.
1779 Navarro, a Spanish traveler brings coffee to Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s soil and climate are ideal for coffee production and it soon flourishes.
Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s biggest exports and is a vital commodity to the country’s economy.
1788 Half of the world’s coffee is now being supplied by San Domingo (now Haiti) but at a terrible cost.
Thousands from the New World and Africa are forced into slavery and made to work on the plantations. They live in appalling conditions whilst the plantation owners reap the financial rewards.
1790 The Spanish now bring coffee plants to Mexico from Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
The first coffee plantations begin to grow in the southeast state of Veracruz; however, its commercial viability isn’t recognized until after the Mexican Revolution.
1792 New York’s Stock Exchange is born on the 2nd floor of the Tontine Coffee House at 68 Wall Street, located at the northwest corner of Wall Street and Water Street.
It’s a spring day when 24 men meet at the building by the huge sycamore tree called a buttonwood. Here trading rules were agreed upon and were termed the Buttonwood Agreement.
Cafe Florian: By User: Arnaud 25 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image of De Clieu: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Coffee Cantata image: By FannyH – caption (Public property – caption) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Boston Tea party image: By USCapitol (Boston Tea Party) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Buttonwood Agreement image: By Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Click here for history of coffee in 1800s