European coffee history begins in Italy, where it was imported from the Ottoman Empire. In particular, Venetian merchants contributed to the widespread popularity of coffee in European regions and in 1645, the first ever European coffee house was opened in Venice. Drinking coffee became a great commodity, especially for wealthy people.
Through the Dutch East India Company and British East India Company, coffee also became very popular in England. The first coffee house in England opened in Oxford in 1651 and many others quickly followed, particularly in London. Coffee houses were strictly for men only, where they could discuss business and news, as well as socialise. It is said that many business ventures and ideas started in London coffee houses.
Over the next 30 years, coffee became cultural staples in Austria, Germany, Spain, and the rest of Europe too. However, growing coffee in Europe was a struggle, due to its naturally colder climates. European traders would later start to grow coffee elsewhere.
Around the 1800s, coffee was cultivated in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos by French colonisers. The Dutch were finally allowed to grow coffee in the latter half of the 17th century and were successful with their efforts on the island of Java, in what is now known as Indonesia. The plants thrived and the Dutch began to play a significant role in trading coffee.
The New World's hot, tropical weather was seen as a new ideal for the cultivation of coffee, and coffee plantations quickly spread throughout Central America, with their first coffee harvest occurring in 1726. Latin American countries also have ideal coffee-growing conditions, with a good balance of sunshine and rain, high and humid temperatures, and rich soil. By the mid-18th century, Latin American countries emerged as some of the top coffee producers, clearing extensive tropical forests in preparation for plantations. Today, Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world.