Guest Post: Coffee: Mankind’s Social Beverage
Social meetings around coffee go as far back as 14th century Turkey. People from all walks of life – government officials, clergy, tradesmen, and artisans – would meet in coffeehouses and discuss political issues. By the 16th century, coffeehouses could be found all over cities such as Cairo, Damascus, and Mecca.
Coffee made its way into Europe through Hungary and then Italy, with the first Italian coffeehouse appearing in Venice in 1645.
A Jewish man established a coffeehouse in Oxford in 1652. Another coffeehouse opened in London a few months later under the proprietorship of Pasqua Rosée, who was the servant of a trader of Turkish goods. By 1675 there were over 3,000 coffeehouses in England.
Rosée also opened the first coffeehouse in Paris in 1672, and it remained the only one in Paris until the Café Procope opened in 1686. This café ended up being a popular meeting place for many philosophers of the French Enlightenment such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot. One reason for this was because coffeehouses had the atmosphere of pubs without the debauchery.
The famous Viennese cafés were started by Greeks in 1685 and gained popularity among artists, scientists, and politicians. Viennese cafes remain known today for their relaxed character that allows customers to spend all day sitting in the café with the same cup of coffee and a newspaper.
Although coffeehouses were touted as being universal meeting places for people of all different social statuses, women were banned from them in England and France until the end of the 19th century. Through the 19th and 20th centuries, coffeehouses continued to be popular meeting places for philosophers, writers, and artists in particular for them to discuss their ideas.
Coffee shops in the U.S. were popularized by the espresso-based Italian coffeehouses in neighborhoods in New York, Boston, and San Francisco. In the 50s and 60s, coffee shops became popular performance venues for folk musicians and Beat poetry performances. The countercultural coffeehouse scene in Seattle began in the late 60s and saw the birth of Starbucks in 1971.
Until the 1990s, coffee shops in America were only common in college towns or countercultural districts. As commercial chains like Starbucks and independent stores began to appear across the country, coffee culture began to appear in popular media such as the television show Friends.
The rich history behind coffee is one of the main reasons why we continue to “meet for coffee” today. Whether brainstorming with a work colleague, going on a casual date, or catching up with an old friend, coffee shops continue to be our locale of choice. From the laid-back, cool, egalitarian atmosphere of coffee shops to the delectable smell and taste of the drink itself, coffee is certain to be our social beverage for years to come.
This is a Guest Post on the Espresso Deco Blog by Lori Hutchison. Lori owns the site Masters in History Site and is an Art History Professor. Image credit: CoffeePartyUSAon Flickr.