How the enterprising Dutch traders captured the first world's market for coffee—Activities of the Netherlands East India Company—The first coffee house at the Hague—The first public auction at Amsterdam in 1711, when Java coffee brought forty-seven cents a pound, green
The Dutch had early knowledge of coffee because of their dealings with the Orient and with the Venetians, and of their nearness to Germany, where Rauwolf first wrote about it in 1582. They were familiar with Alpini's writings on the subject in 1592. Paludanus, in his coffee note on Linschoten's Travels, furnished further enlightenment in 1598.
The Dutch were always great merchants and shrewd traders. Being of a practical turn of mind, they conceived an ambition to grow coffee in their colonial possessions, so as to make their home markets headquarters for a world's trade in the product. In considering modern coffee-trading, the Netherlands East India Company may be said to be the pioneer, as it established in Java one of the first experimental gardens for coffee cultivation.
The Netherlands East India Company was formed in 1602. As early as 1614, Dutch traders visited Aden to examine into the possibilities of coffee and coffee-trading. In 1616 Pieter Van dan Broeck brought the first coffee from Mocha to Holland. In 1640 a Dutch merchant, named Wurffbain, offered for sale in Amsterdam the first commercial shipment of coffee from Mocha. As indicating the enterprise of the Dutch, note that this was four years before the beverage was introduced into France, and only three years after Conopios had privately instituted the breakfast coffee cup at Oxford.
About 1650, Varnar, the Dutch minister resident at the Ottoman Porte, published a treatise on coffee.
When the Dutch at last drove the Portuguese out of Ceylon in 1658, they began the cultivation of coffee there, although the plant had been introduced into the island by the Arabs prior to the Portuguese invasion in 1505. However, it was not until 1690 that the more systematic cultivation of the coffee plant by the Dutch was undertaken in Ceylon.
Regular imports of coffee from Mocha to Amsterdam began in 1663. Later, supplies began to arrive from the Malabar coast.
Pasqua Rosée, who introduced the coffee house into London in 1652, is said to have made coffee popular as a beverage in Holland by selling it there publicly in 1664. The first coffee house was opened in the Korten Voorhout, the Hague, under the protection of the writer Van Essen; others soon followed in Amsterdam and Haarlem.
At the instigation of Nicolaas Witsen, burgomaster of Amsterdam and governor of the East India Company, Adrian Van Ommen, commander of Malabar, sent the first Arabian coffee seedlings to Java in 1696, recorded in the chapter on the history of coffee propagation. These were destroyed by flood, but were followed in 1699 by a second shipment, from which developed the coffee trade of the Netherlands East Indies, that made Java coffee a household word in every civilized country.
A trial shipment of the coffee grown near Batavia was received at Amsterdam in 1706, also a plant for the botanical gardens. This plant subsequently became the progenitor of most of the coffees of the West Indies and America.
The first Java coffee for the trade was received at Amsterdam 1711. The shipment consisted of 894 pounds from the Jakatra plantations and from the interior of the island. At the first public auction, this coffee brought twenty-three and two-thirds stuivers (about forty-seven cents) per Amsterdam pound.
The Netherlands East India Company contracted with the regents of Netherlands India for the compulsory delivery of coffee; and the natives were enjoined to cultivate coffee, the production thus becoming a forced industry worked by government. A "general system of cultivation" was introduced into Java in 1832 by the government, which decreed the employment of forced labor for different products. Coffee-growing was the only forced industry that existed before this system of cultivation, and it was the only government cultivation that survived the abolition of the system in 1905–08. The last direct government interest in coffee was closed out in 1918. From 1870 to 1874, the government plantations yielded an average of 844,854 piculs a year; from 1875 to 1878, the average was 866,674 piculs. Between 1879 and 1883, it rose to 987,682 piculs. From 1884 to 1888, the average annual yield was only 629,942 piculs.
Holland readily adopted the coffee house; and among the earliest coffee pictures preserved to us is one depicting a scene in a Dutch coffee house of the seventeenth century, the work of Adriaen Van Ostade (1610–1675), shown on page 586.
History records no intolerance of coffee in Holland. The Dutch attitude was ever that of the constructionist. Dutch inventors and artisans gave us many new designs in coffee mortars, coffee roasters, and coffee serving-pots.