History of Ceylon Coffee

Early in the 17th century, Muslim pilgrims traveling from Yemen to India through Ceylon (Sri Lanka) may have brought the first arabica coffee plants to the region. The Sinhalese, however, had no idea how to utilize the berries to make a beverage. Only their curries and flower offerings to their temples included the young leaves.

In Sri Lankan coffee history, the Dutch made the first effort at organized coffee farming in 1740. Governor Baron van Imhoff and his successors, Van Gollenesse and Loten, started it. It was, however, restricted to low-lying areas and had a poor level of success. The Dutch East India Company also put a cap on production because they didn’t want coffee grown on Javan plantations to compete with their own.

After coming to the island in 1796 and assuming authority in 1815, the British kept experimenting with coffee manufacturing. These early efforts, which were mostly in the coastal regions around Galle, failed because the terrain was unsuited for growing coffee. George Bird built a coffee plantation in Singhapitiya and was the first person to successfully grow coffee on a commercial basis.

Another plantation was started at Gannoruwa in 1825 by Edward Barnes, who was appointed Governor of Ceylon in 1824. This plantation is now a part of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. Several additional government representatives who started plantations in the area came after them. Jeronis de Soysa was the only native to cultivate coffee on a commercial basis.

The majority of these early endeavors failed commercially for a variety of reasons, including the inadequacies of the low-lying terrain, competition from the West Indies, a lack of cultivating expertise, and inadequate infrastructure. [16] In 1827, the first plantation was established in the hilly Kandy region. A few years later, it expanded to many other regions of the nation and started to prosper.

In 1860, the top three coffee-producing nations worldwide were Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Indonesia. The coffee trade was still booming in Ceylon in 1869, but soon after, the fungal disease Hemileia vastatrix, better known as coffee leaf rust (CLR), which infected not just Sri Lanka but other Asian nations as well, wreaked havoc on coffee estates. Within 20 years, production decreased quickly, and by 1900, tea had supplanted coffee.

The Netherlands’ Pelikaan has been importing tea from Sri Lanka and selling it to local tea connoisseurs since 1800. Even in the year 2020, Sri Lanka is still not a significant producer of coffee, with the majority of farms producing primarily for inland income. From our perspective, the beans’ quality is still subpar when compared to other coffee beans from throughout the globe. How is it even possible? First of all, Sri Lankan farmers lack sufficient expertise in coffee farming, and a significant issue is the generally subpar quality of their labor.