When coffee was first discovered – 11th Century

Back in the 11th century, the very first coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia. Coffee leaves were boiled in water and the resulting concoction was thought to have medicinal properties. But, what really led to the discovery of this magical plant? Ethiopians believe in a legendary goat herder named Kaldi, who found his goats full of energy after eating the berries from this undiscovered plant. Kaldi, tried it himself and had a comparable response.

How it spread to the Middle East – 14th Century

Yemen was one of the first countries in the Arabian Peninsula to grow coffee. The climate and fertile conditions in Yemen were ideal for coffee cultivation. However, for three centuries, they followed the Ethiopian way of consuming coffee. Constantly, coffee was spread to Mecca, Medina and other larger capitals including Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Constantinople.

Introduction of coffee to Sri Lanka – Early 17th Century

It is believed, the earliest coffee plant introduced to Sri Lanka was from Yemeni pilgrims who reached via India. However, the Sinhalese, unaware of using coffee as a beverage, used the young leaves for curries and flowers as offerings at the temple.

When the Dutch attempted to cultivate coffee – Mid 17th Century

The Dutch first ventured systematic cultivation of coffee in 1740 under Governor Baron van Imhoff, Van Gollenesse and Loten. However, they failed to advance as low-country cultivation was relatively ineffective. Moreover, The Dutch East India Company did not want competition against their plantations in Java, Indonesia.

How the British succeeded in their venture – 1815

When the British took control from the Dutch in 1815, they experimented coffee cultivation in coastal areas but failed mostly due to the unsuitability of the soil. With the attitude set to succeed, they continued to test it out elsewhere. The Governor of Ceylon, Sir Edward Barnes distinguished the hill country as the most suitable region for coffee cultivation.

What happened when the West Indies ceased slavery – 1830

When the West Indies ceased slavery, the Sri Lankan coffee export industry flourished as the Caribbean nation struggled to acclimate through transition. During this stage, coffee production supported the country’s development process. In 1860, Sri Lanka was ranked amongst Brazil and Indonesia, the two largest coffee-producing countries in the world.

The unexpected production dip and revival – 1882

The country’s coffee industry was almost wiped out in 1882 by the fungal disease Hemileia vastatrix,nicknamed devastating Emily but an astonishing revival resulted in the resumption of coffee cultivation years later.

Present Day

In 2014, Sri Lanka was placed 43rd in the long list of coffee producing countries in the world. With a multitude of unique blends, the local coffee industry has not just observed an increase in consumption but has become the livelihood of millions of people.