Coffee is believed to have arrived in North America in 1607 when Captain John Smith helped to found the colony of Virginia at Jamestown. By 1668 coffee had replaced beer as New York City's favourite breakfast drink with coffeehouses in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Most of these coffeehouses were more like pubs and taverns than the genuine coffeehouses of Europe. They served not only coffee but also chocolate, ales, beers and wines. They also rented rooms to sailors and travellers. One famous coffeehouse in New England was the Green Dragon in Boston. At first it was popular with British officers but in later years it came to be the gathering place of John Adams, Paul Revere and other revolutionaries plotting against England.

Tea remained the favourite beverage in America until 1773 when the people of Boston revolted against the excessively high tax King George had placed on tea. They raided English merchant ships which were in the harbour and threw their cargoes of tea into the sea. The event became known as the "Boston Tea Party", and afterwards the people of Boston and America changed from drinking tea to coffee which was seen as a patriotic duty.

It was the Dutch, however, who, with a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha, became the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially in 1690. They founded the East India coffee trade by taking the coffee tree to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and their East Indian colony, Java, and as a result, Amsterdam became a trading centre for coffee. Coffee was becoming a precious product fit for Royal gifts and, in 1714, the mayor of Amsterdam sent a young coffee tree to King Louis XIV of France as a present. These seedlings were entrusted by the King to the botanists of the King's Royal Botanical Garden (now the "Jardin des Plantes").

It is the descendents of this plant who ended up producing the entire Western coffee industry. A young naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, was in Paris on leave from Martinique, a French colony in the Carribean. Imagining Martinique as a French Java, he requested clippings from his King's tree. Permission was, however, denied. Determined, de Clieu led a moonlight raid of the King's Garden and managed to steal a seedling from the greenhouses. De Clieu set sail for Martinique only to discover the worst was still to come.

On the return journey to Martinique, de Clieu was to encounter a number of setbacks. A "basely jealous" passenger attempted to steal his coffee seedling and, when unable to get the plant away from him, tore off a branch. The ship was then attacked and almost captured by pirates. Getting over that, it suffered a violent storm and when the skies became clear they became far too clear and the ship was becalmed. Water grew scarce but the young coffee tree was kept alive because de Clieu used part of his own tiny water ration to water it. On arriving in the Carribean, de Clieu planted the tree on his own estate in Martinique where, under armed guard, it yielded a total of about 18 million trees by 1777.

The French and the Dutch were, like the Arabs before them, anxious to protect their monopoly over cultivation. Brazil's emperor, however, wanted a cut of the coffee market and, in 1727, he send Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta to French Guiana to mediate a border dispute between the French and Dutch. Not only did the Colonel settle the dispute but he also managed to initiate an affair between him and the governor's wife. The plan payed off and, as a farewell gift at a state dinner, she presented him with a sly token of affection: a bouquet in which she hid cuttings and the fertile seeds of coffee. It is from these shoots that the world's greatest coffee empire and the great coffee plantations of Latin America emerged. By 1800 Brazil's monster harvests would turn coffee from a drink for the elite into an everyday drink for the people.

More recently, the welfare of growing areas has become of more concern and so there is a greater degree of control over the turning of land into coffee plantations and better trading deals are being negotiated.