Posted in Kafevend Blog
Anyone who happened to have a go at our quiz last month may remember a mention of the company Douwe Egberts. We've decided to return to them and embark on a more in depth look at a company that has been running for over 250 years. Before that however, we are going to journey a little further back still...
The Dutch played a big part in bringing coffee to Europe. Amongst the many European nations battling to get their hands on live coffee trees, it was the Netherlands who managed it first. In 1616, a Dutch merchant named Pieter van der Broecke managed to get his hands on a few coffee trees. This was no easy feat, as they were jealously guarded by the Arabians who didn't want Europeans muscling in on one of their biggest trade commodities. Van der Broecke brought his prize back to Amsterdam and the city's botanical gardens without much fanfare, but the seeds for Dutch dominance in the field of coffee were sown.
Forty years on, the healthy population of arabica trees thriving in the botanical gardens were used to establish coffee plantations in their new colonial holdings. The first were created on the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and soon after in southern India. They also created more plantations in Suriname on the north coast of South America and on the island of Java, part of Indonesia. This glut of plantations across the globe meant that the Dutch were producing the lion's share of the coffee that made its way to Europe.
Douwe Egberts began in 1753 when a Dutchman and his wife, Egbert Douwes and Akke Thijsses, decided to open a grocery store in the town of Joure in the north of the Netherlands. Their shop, 'The White Ox', began to stock a variety of the exotic new goods that were being shipped into Europe. Amongst them were items such as tea and tobacco, but it was the coffee they stocked which has became the company's main focus over the years.
Two years after opening their shop, Douwes and Thijsses had a child who they perhaps rather uninspiringly called Douwe Egberts. Egberts eventually joined the family business in 1780 and started to promote their products further afield around the country, thus helping the business to grow. Following his death in 1806, Egberts' wife Lysbeth Mintjes took on the mantle of running the up and coming company and named it after her late husband.
Over the years, Douwe Egberts went from strength to strength, but always mantained a loyal customer base. One of the ways they rewarded this was with a token system which started in 1924. Their products would always carry a removable token- when people had saved up enough, they could trade them in for extra goodies! Their famous red seal brand was introduced a year later on packaging for their tobacco. Whilst it has changed a few times, it has always been distinctive and there was never any doubt about the makers of the product.