mainLEGENDSNGM ARTICLEMAP
ROASTSCOFFEE TALK


Louis XIV cradles his coffee plant,
a gift from the Dutch.


A SWASHBUCKLING SCHEME
(Circa 1714 to 1720)

Louis XIV received his Dutch treat around 1714—a coffee tree for Paris’s (map) Royal Botanical Garden, the Jardin des Plantes. Several years later a young naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, was in Paris on leave from Martinique, a French colony in the Caribbean. Imagining Martinique as a French Java, he requested clippings from his king’s tree. Permission denied.

Resolute, de Clieu led a moonlight raid of the Jardin des Plantes—over the wall, into the hothouse, out with a sprout.

Mission accomplished, de Clieu sailed for Martinique. He might have thought the hard part was over. He would have been wrong...

[next]


© 1999 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.