Sunday, March 9, 2014

Louis XIV and Coffee

Louis XIV
Coffee is one of the widely drank beverage in the world. Many countries like Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia earned a lot from the coffee industries. They earn because many developed nation imported this black gold for a caffeine boost. Among the top importers of coffee beans is the European nation of France. In searching in history, the start of France’s love of coffee dates back during the 17th and 18th century. Coffee back then was not a consumer item that everyone could drink. The powerful Ottoman Empire had the monopoly of trade of many items, including, coffee. It only entered the limelight of Europe when it was introduced to the high and grandiose society of the Sun King of France, Louis XIV.

Coffee debuted in France when an Ottoman ambassador arrived at the opulent Palace of Versailles. Suleiman Aga, the Ottoman ambassador to France, arrived to the court of King Louis XIV. As part of his courtesy call, he gave gifts to the King. Many luxurious items were given as gifts. He gave gold, jewelry, and many other opulent items. But one of the most notable items that the ambassador brought was coffee. Louis, however, did not like the coffee at first because he preferred wine and champagne more.

Suleiman Aga resided in Paris and spread coffee culture to the Parisians. He offered coffee to every guest he received at his mansion. To suite the taste of the French, he added sugar to sweeten the strong bitter taste of coffee. Many of his aristocrat guests created a liking for it. They then later spread about it at the court of King Louis. Eventually, coffee became a popular drink in the royal court. King Louis later on began to drink coffee as well. 

After the courtiers, coffee later began to be drank by the common people across France. The consumption of it increased annually. Meanwhile, Louis XIV, being an avid spender, needed to find out a new source of income to maintain the kingdom and his extravagant lifestyle. He decided to take advantage of the rising consumption of goods like tea and coffee. He imposed taxes on this items thus bringing money to his coffers. Coffee’s proliferation came to a halt and its consumption began to decline.

In 1714, Louis XIV received a gift from the mayor of Amsterdam. The mayor sent the king of France a newly acquired coffee plant from the orient. Louis, sensing its importance, placed the plant secured at the Royal Botanical Garden. This plant later became the ancestor of the plant that would bring coffee to the world market.

Nine years after the plant arrived in France, the plant grew up and a man’s ambition would trigger the rise of coffee. In 1723, Gabriel de Clieu stole a shoot of the coffee plant and escaped across the Atlantic. First he landed in Martinique and amassed a wealth from the stolen shoot that he planted in the island. Years later, from that single tree, coffee was introduced to mainland South America, especially, Brazil, today’s largest coffee producer.

Louis XIV played a huge role in the history of coffee. He placed coffee at the limelight of not just the European high society but of whole Europe. From his decision of keeping a coffee plant helped to increase coffee production. It then helped to make coffee into today’s top consumer products.

Santos, R. et al. An Unshammed Defense of Coffee: 101 Reasons to Drink Coffee Without Guilt. Indiana: Xlibris, 2009.

Ukers, W. All About Coffee. Massachusetts:  Adams Media, 2012. 

“A Sip of Coffee History.” One World Coffee. Accessed on November 18, 2013.

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