This was no small matter. This tree, descended from the first coffee plants of Ethiopia, had already been traded to the Dutch through the Port of Mocha in Yemen before travelling to the colony of Java for cultivation.
The Noble Tree was recalled from Java back to the Netherlands to be hothoused before transportation and presentation to King Louis XIV back in France.
Fortunately, he was thrilled with his new acquisition and spent an entire day alone in his greenhouse in the Gardens of Versailles, communing with the plant.
Tended dutifully and carefully by the Royal Botanists, the plant flowered, bore fruit and, most importantly, the seeds we refer to as coffee beans.
Descendants of the Noble Tree were sent out to the French colonies, (most successfully in the Caribbean thanks to the theft of Chevalier Matthieu de Clieu, but that’s another story for another day) including the small island we now call Reunion, but which was then Île Bourbon, named for King Louis XIV’s forefathers of the House of Bourbon.
In a spectacular demonstration of what is known as terroir – the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a coffee or wine by the environment in which it is produced – the descendants of the Typica Noble Tree on Île Bourbon developed the smooth sweetness, gentle brightness and lovely mouthfeel which would make it so popular worldwide.
The farmers of the tiny island also found the plant proved to be prodigious producers of coffee cherries, more disease resistant and hardier. So, winning all round.
These new characteristics are so profoundly different to the parent tree that it is deemed a new varietal and named for the island which gave us the new strain.
Bourbon coffee spread throughout coffee growing regions worldwide, including into East Africa.