History of coffee in the Czech Republic

The origin and history of coffee in Bohemia

In 1698 the first coffee tree blossomed in thegreenhouse of the Jesuit College in Prague. Unfortunately, the conditions for growing in a greenhouse did not allow the bush to grow coffee fruit. The first Czechs to encounter coffee were Heřman Černín from Chudenice and Kryštof Harant from Polžice. They brought coffee to Bohemia from their travels in the Middle East.

Coffee began to be introduced to the countryside during the 18th century. In the first half of the 18th century, coffee was prepared only as medicine and sold roasted and ground in pharmacies. It was recommended to convalescents for its stimulating effect.

The different smell and taste of coffee was very distrustful to all the country people. They considered it wasteful and unhealthy. However, despite its detractors, coffee quickly spread to many households towards the end of the 18th century.

Coffee was primarily drunk with milk and sweeteners. Coffee beans were previously washed in water, roasted in a pan and pounded in a mortar. It was then poured into a teapot with honey.

As the popularity of coffee grew, so did the protests against its consumption. The most common reason was the high price. According to many opponents, coffee was also harmful to health and caused many diseases.

First Republic coffee substitutes

Coffee beans were still a rare commodity in the countryside at the end of the 19th century. In many regions it replaced porridge or soup for breakfast and sometimes served as a quick dinner. Since real coffee beans were a very expensive commodity, everyone was looking for substitutes that could be used to make a similar drink.

Soon, cereal coffeeswere brewed with various additives (chicory, rosehip seeds, etc.) to which a few beans of real coffee were sometimes added. Fruit coffees were also made, the most famous beingfig coffee. Figs were imported from Italy and Croatia. They were roasted in Cologne. Fig coffee was very popular in the First Republic.

The first Czech dripper: Do you know Karlovy Vary cutlery?

Thepatent of the Klášterec porcelain factory (Thun) from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries is nowadays known as the Karlovy Vary cutlery. The first form of the decanter was invented by the American physicist and inventor Count Rumford. Also knownas Benjamin Thompson. The preparation technique is very simple and offers itself as a great alternative for pour over coffee lovers.

It's anall-porcelain dripper that sits on a serving teapot, with a porcelain grid on the bottom. It therefore ensures a perfectly prepared cup of coffee, without the use of paper filters.

The basis is, of course, freshly roasted coffee beans and a high-quality manual or electric coffee grinder equipped with grinding stones. The price for Carlsbad cutlery nowadays is around 2000-3000 CZK.

The first open cafés and their history

The first cafés began to open in Bohemia at the beginning of the 18th century. One of the first places where coffee was prepared and consumed were the cabins. They used to be used more for studying, but later they became places for drinking coffee.

The furnishings in these rooms were intended to represent the wealth and status of the nobleman. The same was true of serving. Coffee utensils were made of luxurious materials such as porcelain, majolica or terra sigillata.

For a long time, coffee houses were mainly for the wealthier classes. For the poorer bourgeoisie, cafe workers stood in the passageways of houses with simple equipment on which they had 2 pots in pans with hot coals laid out. In one was brewed black coffee and in the other milk. Both liquids were then poured into small cups by the café workers and served to the workers on their way to work.

Where did the oldest coffee houses in the Czech Republic originate?

Thefirst café in Brno was founded in 1702 by the Turk Achmet. He got permission from the city council, thanks to the Viennese archbishop Kollonnitsch. Brno residents quickly fell in love with drinking coffee.

In 1711, the city council granted a licence to brew coffee to another entrepreneur, Ignaz Stiefel. After eight years, there were six coffee houses in the city and by the middle of the 18th century there were 37 coffee houses in Brno.

The first coffee house in Prague was opened in 1711 by the Arab Giorgio Diodat Damascene. After arriving in Prague, he stayed in the former Jezovitská Street ( now Karlova Street) in the house "At the Golden Snake". In order to earn some money he started brewing coffee on the streets of Prague. The people of Prague liked the coffee so much that Giorgio soon became rich and in 1714 he got permission to open his own café.

Within a few years, more and more cafés began to open. Some disappeared, others are still in operation today. These includethe Slavia café, the café in the Municipal House, the Three Ostriches café, the Grand Café Orient in the house by the Black Mother of God and the Savoy café.

In 1787, there were over 100 cafés in Prague andin the 19th century, cafés and the coffee market in Czechoslovakia grew at a rapid pace. After World War II, coffee was in short supply. People drank substitutes like molta or chicory. A large number of cafés were closed because of the communists.

What was it like with Turkish coffee?

During socialism,most people did not have enough money to buy quality coffee or coffee machines. So the easiest way was to pour coarsely ground coffee with boiling water and a log at the bottom. That's why the Czechs liked the famous "turka", which has survived to this day.

Coffee consumption in the Czech Republic

According to statistics from theInternational Coffee Organisation, coffee exports have been on the rise since the slump of 1995. In 2012, global exports reached over 113 million 60-kilogram bags.

The Czech Republic is not exactly at the top of the list of coffee buyers. This is of course related to the size of our country and the size of our population. But even so, the Czech Republic imported over one million bags of coffee in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

295 015 60-kilogram bags of green unroasted coffee beans are imported into the Czech Republic annually. Total consumption is around 572 458 bags per year. Our average consumption per person per year is just over 3.26 kg of coffee. The Czech coffee culture is expected to continue to develop.

Illustration from the book by Zdeněk Žáček, Interesting facts about coffee, tea and cocoa 1962
Illustration from the book by Zdeněk Žáček, interesting facts about coffee, tea and cocoa 1962

How was coffee traded?

In the former Czechoslovakia, the roasting and packaging of coffee was the prerogative of the state enterprise Balírny Obchod.Balírny Obchodu was founded in 1958 and operated until the end of 1990. It had 9 plants in the former Czechoslovakia, 6 of which processed imported green coffee.

The importer for Czechoslovakia was s.p. Koospol. In the past, imports amounted to 35 000 tonnes per year. On 1 January 1991, the company was dissolved by splitting into individual plants and foreign companies became interested in independent coffee roasting.

Tchibo acquired the majority share, Douwe Egberts bought the plant in Prague and Kraft Jacobs Suchard settled in Valašské Meziříčí . The only major roasting plant in the Czech Republic remained the former Roudnice nad Labem, a.s. plant . BASK and Balírny obchodu Praha.

Tchibo was the first major foreign coffee producerto enter the former Czechoslovakia . InApril 1991, Tchibo Praha, spol. s.r.o . was founded.Two million kg of coffee were sold within six months of its launch.

In 1991, Tchibo became the most famous brand in the former Czechoslovakia. With the exception of imported instant coffee, all the varieties offered in the Czech Republic are prepared in a.s. Tchibo Jihlava packaging plants.

The Douwe Egberts coffee packing plant is increasing its market share in the Czech Republic. It is one of the best known coffee brands in Europe. Itwas founded in 1753 by the Dutch merchant Egbert Douwes.

Personalities from the history of the domestic coffee business

Before the aforementioned international companies established themselves on the Czech coffee market, two gentlemen in particular whose names are still remembered by many coffee drinkers were successful in the coffee business. Julius Meinl and Arnošt Dadák.

Especially the honest work of Mr. Dadák is an inspiration for us at Lázeňská kává and indirectly we continue thetradition of coffee roasting in Wallachia. Right here in Luhačovice in 1936, Dadák's coffee was also liked by the then President Edvard Beneš.

Did you know that in the 1920s and 1930s Arnošt Dadák established company greenhouses for growing coffee trees? Dadák wanted to share his enthusiasm for coffee with all lovers of good coffee, and not only in Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, fate did not favour it.

Dadák's factory on a green field

Arnošt Dadák Sr. founded the coffee roasting and packaging factory in 1905. At the age of 17, he started roasting coffee by hand and bringing it to the shops in his backpack. He carried coffee beans from Java, Colombia and Venezuela. He built a roasting plant that was one of the most important in Europe.

At its peak , thecompanyhad offices and warehouses all over the country, plus one in Hamburg. After his death, his son Arnošt took over the business, but he had a difficult time. During World War II, circumstances forced Arnost to switch to coffee and tea substitutes.

Despite this, the company survived. Thebiggest blow for the company was in February 1948. By decree of the Minister of Internal Trade in August 1949, the company was nationalized and its name was changed to Velkodistribuční podnik ve Valašském Meziříčí .

The descendants of Arnošt Dadák regained the company in 1993. Due to high competition, they merged with Jacobs Suchard. The current owner of the Dadák brand is the Dutch company Jacobs Douwe Egberts.

Julius Meinl. The Czech who created the now traditional Viennese coffee culture

The businessman Julius Meinl was born in 1824 in the Karlovy Vary region. He owned a small shop in Vienna specialising in delicatessen, tea but above all coffee. His regular customers bought both green coffee and roasted coffee, which gradually lost its freshness through storage.

Meinl came up with the idea of roasting the coffee in his shop. Julius Meinl was the first person in the world to offer roasted coffee beans. In 1877, he invented the drum roasting technique. At the age of 70, he handed over the management of the company to his son. The public trading company Julius Meinl expanded rapidly.

Julius Meinl has embodied theViennese coffee culture for more than 150 years and has presented it to the world. Initially in Austria-Hungary, today in more than 70 countries around the world.

Of the foreign coffee producers in the country, Kraft Jacobs Suchard is the strongest in terms of capital. It was established in 1993 and its total sales turnover in the Czech Republic reached approximately CZK 1.5 billion. All coffee is roasted and packaged in the company's own production plant Jacobs Suchard Dadák, a. s., in Valašské Meziříčí. The company's turnover continues to rise despite the global increase in coffee prices.