From Ethiopia via Yemen

All around the globe

This article is partly taken from wikipedia. Other informative sources are World Coffee Research and CoffeeResearch.

Where the coffee comes from is not known exactly. According to the latest botanical evidence it is said to have spread from the central plateaus of Ethiopia via Yemen, the Black Sea towards Asia and finally along the equator around the globe.

Despite these modern findings, the sympathetic legend persists that a shepherd from the kingdom of Kaffa was the real discoverer of the coffee cherry and its effects. Kaldi is said to have noticed how his goats became more and more excited the more they ate the fiery red cherries of a shrub.

Bourbon and Typica

French and Dutch

Bourbon, along with coffee Typica, is the first coffee planted outside Ethiopia and the Yemen respectively. Thus every Bourbon variety is a descendant of the ancient Bourbon cultivar, which was shipped by the French from Yemen to the French island of Bourbon and successfully cultivated there. Nowadays this former French colony in the Indian Ocean is known as La Réunion. It was from there that this branch of the primeval coffee began its worldwide triumphal march.

In particular, the coffee plants of Central and South America are mainly derived from the Bourbon coffee plant.

The Dutch did exactly the same as the French. They shipped the primeval coffee originating from Yemen to their colonies and cultivated them. This we know now as Typica.

Coffee Reaches Indonesia

First field trials of the Dutch

1696 the Dutch governor of Malabar (India) has sent some seedlings of Arabica plants to the Dutch governor of Batavia, now known as Jakarta. Unfortunately, the first attempt of cultivating coffee on Java failed. All plants have ben fallen victim to terrible flooding during the rainy season and drowned.

However, they didn't give up. Just three years later a second shipment of seedlings was shipped to Batavia. The plants survived and begun to sprout. Already in 1711, some exports were sent to Europe and successfully planted in various botanical gardens.

The plants grew well, so well that 2000 pounds of coffee beans were sent for the first time from Java to Europe in 1717. Indonesia was the first area outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, where coffee was cultivated on a large scale.

The coffee trade was very lucrative for the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Fewer however, for the Indonesian farmers. They were forced by the Dutch colonialists under the Cultuurstelsel (Cultivation System) to plant coffee, along with sugar cane and indigo.

This deeply corrupt system brought much misery and distress over the Indonesian peasantry. The Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker, aka Multatuli, described the unspeakable machinations in the 1860 published novel Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company.

Then it was this novel, which was eponymous for one of the first fair trade organization. Oh yeah! I didn't know that, did you?

My Personal Coffee History

by sheer chance

It started with the purchase of a very old house. After ten years living on Bali, I came back to Switzerland. Together with my wife, we decided that our son should be able to enjoy a Swiss education.

This house used to be the local mom-and-pop grocery store. Although it was closed down for ages and the heir of the former owner grabbed most valuable stuff, there were still some rummage left. Among other things, an old coffee grinder. A huge thing!

So far I know coffee only as a consumer of a cup of tasteless brew in restaurants or every now and then a filter coffee at home. Anyhow, this monster of a grinder piqued my curiosity. Is it really a grinder with a roaster integrated?

After I've been investigating deeper, I knew it. There is no roaster inegrated at all! It's just an other grinder for hazelnuts, instead.

However, too late! It already pulled me in the sleeves. On relevant websites I'm reading about coffee enthusiasts. Life is to short for bad coffee, is their credo. Since they drunk freshly roasted coffee, they would never ever drink usual, commercially available one, again.

Of course not all of these coffee freaks are roasting their own coffee. Rather they draw their fresh coffee with the roaster of confidence.

Nevertheless, I wonna roast my own coffee. Nothing easier than this, I thought as much.