Spices from Asia, such as pepper and cinnamon, were very important to the Europeans, but other items Europeans coveted included silk and tea from China, as well as Chinese porcelains.
Travel to India, primarily for spices, and to the Far East for other goods, became a major obstacle for the Europeans once the Ottoman Empire had control of both the Mediterranean Sea and the overland routes to the Orient in the fifteenth century. Barbary pirates patrolling the Mediterranean presented dangers, and tolls for overland routes became prohibitively expensive. The sudden lack of profit in the traditional eastern routes led to what is known as the Age of Exploration. European nations began to invest more heavily in exploring the seas in hopes of finding alternative ways to the East. This led to the discovery of a route to India around the tip of Africa and to the discovery of North and South America.