By the 15th century, coffee was the beverage of choice in Arabia. Forbidden to drink wine, Muslims had turned to coffee and wove its exotic charm into their culture. Arabian coffeehouses served their celebrated brew to visitors from other countries, and hospitable Arab merchants conducted business with Venetian traders over steaming cups. It didn’t take long for news of coffee’s allure to spread throughout the world, as would its fertile coffee beans.
To maintain its monopoly on coffee production, Arabia vehemently opposed the exportation of its fertile coffee seeds and boiled or parched all beans prior to export to render them infertile. The country maintained its world dominance until 1670 when an Indian holy man on pilgrimage to Mecca became so enamored with coffee and its potential for his own country’s economy that he strapped seven fertile beans to his stomach and smuggled them to India. His plantings not only flourished in the Baba Budan hills that bear his name near Mysore, but they spawned an agricultural expansion that would extend to Europe’s colonies as well.
Keenly aware of coffee’s market potential, Dutch traders lined up to purchase seedlings from Baba Budan’s notorious stash. They headed for Indonesia and Ceylon with them, ushering in a new chapter of coffee’s history. No longer an Arab monopoly, coffee was about to embark on its long, enormously successful trek around the world.
Coffees from Africa and Arabia are legendary for their diversity and share flavor attributes ranging from citrus and spice to chocolate and nut. Some of the region’s coffees are still organically grown and hand-processed in accordance with centuries-old tradition. The floral aroma, subtle flavors, and impressive body of these coffees place them among the world’s finest.