A BRIEF HISTORY OF COFFEE TRADE
The coffee plant is believed to have been carried by Arab tradesmen from its homeland in Ethiopia to the port city of Al-Moha (Mocha) in Yemen sometime in the early 15th century. The news of coffee’s invigorating effect – and commercial value – spread quickly, and the export of live beans and of the plant itself was strictly prohibited on pain of death for over 200 years. During this time, all export of coffee to Europe and beyond was conducted via Yemen, Egypt and the Ottoman capital of Istanbul.
In the 16th century, Istanbul became a busy coffee trading hub, as well as the world’s largest coffee market. The opening of the first coffee house in 1553 was followed by dozens, later hundreds of new coffee houses springing up literally in every corner of the city. Although the first European coffee houses had already started to open in the mid 17th century, in Venice (1640), Marseille (1642) and London (1652), Ottoman diplomatic missions to the courts of Vienna (1665) and Paris (1669) helped popularize “the Turkish custom of coffee-drinking” among the general public.
By the beginning of the 18th century, European colonial powers, first the Dutch, later the French, English, Spanish and Portuguese all succeeded in growing coffee on their own colonies in Southeast Asia and the Americas. Indonesia, Surinam, Java, Martinique, Jamaica and – as of 1727 Brazil – become coffee producers, soon outflanking and outcompeting Arabian coffee. The French territory of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) in the Caribbean supplied half the world's coffee by 1788.
Coffee is today mostly cultivated in the equatorial regions of Central and Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and India. Brazil is by far the largest producer of coffee, accounting for close to 50% of all world coffee production, followed by Vietnam and Colombia, with Vietnam leading world production of robusta beans. Other leading coffee producing countries today are Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It is estimated that 2.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day, mostly in the industrialized world.