History of the Propagation of the Coffee Plant

Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia around 575 AD. According to one of many legends, a goatherder by the name of Kaldi found his goats to be very energetic and frisky after eating the berries. Kaldi tried some himself and was delighted with the effect. Once a Moslem monk saw Kaldi and his goats jumping and being very playful. Kaldi told the monk about his discovery. The monk would get very sleepy while doing his late night prayers so he tried Kaldi's berries and was astonished by the results. He dried and boiled the fruit and all the monks used the drink to stay awake during late night prayers. Thus the coffee drink came into being.

Though coffee was cultivated as early as the sixth century A.D. in Yemen, it did not gain popularity until the 15th and 16th Centuries when it was cultivated extensively in Yemen, district of Arabia.

The Arabians jealously guarded their coffee plants by making sure that no coffee beans were taken out of Arabia without first being roasted or boiled to destroy its germination power.

In the 1600s, Baba Budan, a Moslem pilgrim from India, smuggled some fertile seeds from Mecca and planted them in the mountains of Mysore in India. In 1699 a Dutchman named Henricus imported seeds to Java from India. This started coffee production in the Dutch Colonies. From here coffee seeds and plants were sent to the botanical conservatory in Amsterdam. These seeds were cultivated at the conservatory and were propagated and sent to many conservatories throughout Europe. Thus the Dutch took the lead in propagating coffee in their colonies of Java, Sumatra, and Bali.

The French wanted to cultivate coffee in their colonies, but their efforts to transplant plants from Amsterdam were not successful. Finally in 1714 Amsterdam sent a five-foot tree to Louis XIV of France. This tree was successfully planted and propagated in the botanical conservatory of Paris.

In 1723, a French captain, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, of French Martinique Island brought a coffee plant from Paris to Martinique. He encountered many difficulties during this historic voyage, but kept the coffee plant alive by sharing his own ration of drinking water and looking after it day and night. In 1727, an earthquake in Martinique destroyed most of the island?s cocoa plantations and the island was subsequently replanted with coffee. By 1777, Martinique had about 19 million coffee trees. Coffee was also cultivated in French Guiana and many other nearby islands. Coffee trees from Martinique were introduced to Haiti where they replaced less hardy plants introduced by the French in 1715.

The first coffee in Brazil was planted in 1727 from plants brought from French Guiana. However, significant coffee production in Brazil started after 1760 when Jo?o Alberto Castello Branco brought plants from Portuguese Goa in India to Rio de Janeiro.

Coffee was introduced to Costa Rica from Cuba by Don Francisco Xavier Navarro in 1779. The English brought coffee to Jamaica in 1730.

Coffee was introduced to Guatemala in the 1750s. However, at that time Guatemala?s main export was Cochineal (worms used for natural food coloring) and Indigo (a natural dye), so coffee did not take a hold. It was only in the 1850s, when these industries collapsed that farmers started growing coffee in large quantities.

Coffee did not become a major crop in India until the British started emphasizing its production in the 1840s. However, it is said that the coffee seeds that Baba Budan brought from Yemen to India in the 1600s are responsible for the propagation of coffee throughout the world.