Coffee's true worldwide journey came with the Turkish conquests of the Arabian Peninsula during the early 16th century. It was the Ottoman Empire that brought coffee to entirely new places, for new reasons.
The Muslim religion's prohibition of alcohol consumption gave a big lift to coffee throughout Turkey and the rest of the Ottoman Empire. Coffee became a substitute for wine, and was given the name kahve—literally, "wine of Arabia." The word came from the Arabic term oahwah, itself from the verb oahiya, signifying the action of feeling sated.
Coffee diffused quickly throughout the Ottoman Empire, giving rise to world's first coffee houses, called kaveh-kanes or oahveh-khaneh. The first documented coffee house opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1554, but there may well have been others earlier in Cairo, Damascus, Mecca, and Medina.
The early 17th century saw Muslim coffee's introduction to Christian Europe, through the work of Venetian merchants. It met with strong resistance from the Catholic Church, especially by the Pope's Councilmen, who asked Pope Clemente VIII to declare the black beverage "the bitter invention of Satan." The Pope opted for taste over haste before deciding. Fortunately, he liked what he tried, declaring, "this devil's drink is so delicious ... we should cheat the devil by baptizing it."
Coffee's diffusion throughout Europe went at breakneck pace. Venice's first coffee house ("bottega del caffe`") opened in 1645, England's in 1650, France's in 1672, and on to the New World, a Boston outpost in 1676. Today's rapid proliferation of coffee houses: nothing new, save perhaps for the free Wi-Fi.
Coffee quickly became precious and coffee plants much sought after. Big European empires like Holland and France tried to grow coffee in their own territories, far from the tropical climates where it was already known to best thrive. (Virtually all of the coffee we drink today is produced in regions situated in the tropics.) To preserve their monopoly, Arabian coffee traders intentionally made export beans infertile by parching or boiling them before export to Europe.
The Dutch persevered, obtaining coffee plants and creating the first successful coffee plantation away from the Middle East, on their colony of Java in early 18th century Indonesia. They started with just a few coffee plants obtained through trade with merchants in the Yemenite port of Mocha. Mocha Java was born, its first shipment to Europe dating to 1719.
Following Java's success, coffee production was fast established on Sumatra and Ceylon. Some plants were cultivated in specially created botanical gardens in Amsterdam. As part of a military agreement, France received some of these plants as gifts in 1720, promptly transporting them to its colonies in Central America. A captain of the French Navy, Gabriel de Clieu, was ordered by King Louis XV to establish a plantation in Martinique.
As the story goes, during the voyage, water was rationed, and the captain took care to share his portion with the plants. Recent findings points to coffee already growing in the French colony of Saint-Domingue as early as 1715, and in the Dutch colony of Surinam since 1718.