Early Coffee Cultivation by the Dutch

In the latter part of the 16th century, German, Italian, and Dutch botanists and travelers brought back from the Levant considerable information regarding the new plant and the beverage. In 1614 enterprising Dutch traders began to examine into the possibilities of coffee cultivation and coffee trading. In 1616 a coffee plant was successfully transported from Mocha to Holland.

In 1658 the Dutch started the cultivation of coffee in Ceylon, although the Arabs are said to have brought the plant to the island prior to 1505. In 1670 an attempt was made to cultivate coffee on European soil at Dijon, France, but the result was a failure.

In 1696, at the instigation of Nicolaas Witsen, then burgomaster of Amsterdam, Adrian Van Ommen, commander at Malabar, India, caused to be shipped from Kananur, Malabar, to Java, the first coffee plants introduced into that island. They were grown from seed of the Coffea arabica brought to Malabar from Arabia. They were planted by Governor-General Willem Van Outshoorn on the Kedawoeng estate near Batavia, but were subsequently lost by earthquake and flood. In 1699 Henricus Zwaardecroon imported some slips, or cuttings, of coffee trees from Malabar into Java. These were more successful, and became the progenitors of all the coffees of the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch were then taking the lead in the propagation of the coffee plant.

In 1706 the first samples of Java coffee, and a coffee plant grown in Java, were received at the Amsterdam botanical gardens. Many plants were afterward propagated from the seeds produced in the Amsterdam gardens, and these were distributed to some of the best known botanical gardens and private conservatories in Europe.

While the Dutch were extending the cultivation of the plant to Sumatra, the Celebes, Timor, Bali, and other islands of the Netherlands Indies, the French were seeking to introduce coffee cultivation into their colonies. Several attempts were made to transfer young plants from the Amsterdam botanical gardens to the botanical gardens at Paris; but all were failures.

In 1714, however, as a result of negotiations entered into between the French government and the municipality of Amsterdam, a young and vigorous plant about five feet tall was sent to Louis XIV at the chateau of Marly by the burgomaster of Amsterdam. The day following, it was transferred to the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, where it was received with appropriate ceremonies by Antoine de Jussieu, professor of botany in charge. This tree was destined to be the progenitor of most of the coffees of the French colonies, as well as of those of South America, Central America, and Mexico.


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Did You Know?
Coffee consumption can lead to iron deficiency anemia in mothers and infants.

Coffee also interferes with the absorption of supplemental iron.

Interference with iron absorption is due to the polyphenols present in coffee.

Although the inhibition of iron absorption can cause an iron deficiency, iron is considered a carcinogen in relation to the liver and can increase risks of hepatocellular carcinoma, more commonly known as liver cancer. Polyphenols contained in coffee are therefore associated with decreasing the risk of liver cancer development.