More coffee intrigue... The Dutch did an odd thing that leads to the greatest heist in history! The Mayor of Amsterdam presents a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. He has it placed, this most valuable of plant, within the walled protection of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paris for those in his court to be in awe of. He too would stop by and admire this singular coffee plant that could - that would... change the world. More about the thief, the clever heist and this plant's offshoot little sprout that takes a great global adventure later...
Back to some fun factoids: London is on the verge of becoming the largest city in Western Europe with more than 630,000 residents. Can you believe it? And coffee has really taken off. There are more than 2000 coffee houses in and around London to satisfy these enterprising busy Brits on their quest to become #1. Onward and upward! Keep up the good work.
Café Florian opens in Venice, Italy in Piazza San Marco. It's still open to this day. When in Venice do as the Venetians do... Stop by for an espresso.
Berlin gets its first coffee house. Finally, something to wash down the strudel!
Back to the fascinating story of intrigue and the now full-grown coffee tree in Paris. Ten years have past and all is well in the Royal Botanical Garden until a French Naval Officer, named Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, who's on leave from his station in Martinique, strolls into the court of King Louis XIV's and requests from the protective King, clippings from his beloved tree. Gabriel is summarily denied. Not to be dissuaded from his quest and certain that the Caribbean would be the perfect location for cultivating coffee, he bides his time, playing out his role as charming guest of the court and enjoying all the merriment that was offered up, including liquor, numerous beautiful be-rouged and be-powdered women, who were clad in their finest, and at times, were seduced out of their finest by the handsome, irresistible Gabriel. Waiting for his moment, for when the waning moon rose, Gabriel set out on the raid. He scaled the high walls of the Royal Botanical Garden, entered the hothouse, then with history within his grasp -- snatched a cutting from this rare tree and made haste to a waiting vessel to set immediate sail back to the French colony of Martinique in the West Indies.
On this fateful journey, Gabriel kept the little sprout below deck in a glass cabinet. Every day he tended to the precious treasure in his charge. He would bring it out to soak up the sun's rays, then back down to its protective quarters. Days passed into weeks, when suddenly a crew man on board with a devious plot (allegedly one with a Dutch accent), pulls a dagger out and fights vigorously with Gabriel to steal the cutting away. This Dutchman managed to break off a side-shoot, however Gabriel with sword in hand prevailed, making the loathsome crewman submit to his will. The would-be thief was placed in shackles and maybe even spanked... Oh, my!
Days pass and just when the journey seemed on fair sail, a savage attack by Pirates takes the crew a full day to fend off. By fates' will, they save themselves and the priceless cargo below. And if all this wasn't enough for Gabriel and the coffee sprout, a horrendous storm nearly sinks the ship. The glass cabinet that housed it, is shattered and the limited fresh water supply is nearly all lost. For the remainder of the journey, Gabriel shares his ration of water with his now wilting plant. Soon Martinique appears on the horizon and port is just ahead, awaiting their arrival.
Gabriel secretly cultivates the coffee plant, hiding it behind other native plants to shield it from unwelcome eyes. Some twenty months pass and the first small harvest is ready. He distributes it among the island's doctors and other intellectuals. Within three years coffee plantations spread all over Martinique and its sister islands of St. Dominique and Guadeloupe. Coffee harvests were so large in the Caribbean that King Louis XIV finally forgave Gabriel for his thievery and made him Governor of the Antilles. So crime does pay!
This little sprout that could ... would become the progenitor of 19 million trees in Martinique over the next 50 years and was the stock from which coffee trees throughout the Carribean, South and Central America originated. This could be considered possibly the greatest heist ever and for us, the greatest gift. Thank you Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, thank you. Merci, beacoup.
This was the year the Brazilian government decided coffee was in their future. As a guise to settle a border dispute between French Guiana and Dutch Guiana, on South America's jungle-ridden northern coast, Brazil sent the handsome Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta to arbitrate a compromise ... Yet his real objective was to acquire the oh-so desirable coffee plant. After all his pro-active and successful efforts to mend the peace, the French Governor refused to grant Palheta's simple request for coffee seedlings. The Governor's denial did not detour Francisco who had arrived with a very seductive back-up plan. You could say he was the 007 of his day. It was no secret the Governor vigorously guarded the plantations to prevent cultivation from spreading, however his stunning wife... he did not guard so vigorously from spreading and cultivating...
During a state dinner, the charming Francisco captivated the consideration of the beautiful Governor's wife. As they danced the night away, he whispered into her ear, "amore, amore, amore" tempting her with his Brazilian ways. The preoccupied Governor did not sense that his wife was about to give the farm away. After a secret liaison, or two... or three... The clandestine deal was sealed. As a bon voyage gift of appreciation and gratification, the French Governor's wife presents Francisco with a bouquet of flowers secretly sprinkled with her fertile coffee seedlings. It's the least she could do for his favors towards her. With a wink of her eye, a sly pat on his butt, and a knowing smile they exchanged, she sent him on his way back to Brazil. From these cuttings grew the world's largest coffee empire we know today.
Formerly the English Governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicolas Lawes, who is famous for prosecuting those pesky pirates, transports the first coffee plant to Jamaica. Cultivation soon starts at the foothills of St. Andrew and quickly moves its way deep into the fertile Blue Mountains. While most of the coffee produced in Jamaica through the 18th century was traded throughout the world, it wasn't until coffee plantations were established in the Blue Mountain range that things take a turn for the extraordinary and Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is first cultivated. Yummy for us!
In Germany, even Johann Sebastian Bach got caught up in the coffee culture movement. He composes the humorous "Coffee Cantata," and the lyrics. It's the story of a befuddled father who tries to get his headstrong, rebellious teenage daughter to kick the coffee habit and get married. It's a tough choice for her; Coffee or marriage? Hmm...
The composition may very well have been inspired by a conversation Bach had with one of his own daughters. It was first performed in Zimmerman's Coffee House in Germany, where he often practiced and performed. To read the humorous lyrics that Bach wrote click here.
The British East India Trading Company gives up the coffee trade to the Dutch and French who dominate. In a short time, tea becomes England's drink to the masses, replacing ale, gin and coffee. Five o'clock becomes its more revered time. Tea sandwich, anyone? No, thank you, no.
In Boston, as a protest against the unrepresented taxation of tea in America, the colonists rise up and take a first step towards independence, rejecting King George and the English. Meeting in the Green Dragon coffee house (which is still open today), the plan is set. The rebellious colonists snuck on-board ships in the harbor and throw the tea overboard. The Boston Tea Party makes drinking coffee a patriotic duty. Next onto the revolution!
In New York City, where the "Birthplace of our Union," was planned just 26 years earlier by Revolutionaries in the Merchants Coffee House on Wall Street. Another revolution is planned, this one economic: Well-heeled men drink their morning coffee and for the first time buy and sell public stock! In only two years, just across the street...
.... the birth of the New York Stock Exchange takes place. On a spring day, a group of 24 men met outside 68 Wall Street, in the shade of a huge sycamore tree that the locals called a "Buttonwood." They set down the rules they would trade by and called it the Buttonwood Agreement.
Later that year, trading moved into a room on the second floor of the Tontine Coffee House where it remained until 1817. That building was eventually torn down, however its name carries on today on the New York high-rise in its place.