Monday, August 8, 2011

History of Coffeehouses

Coffee houses first appeared in Europe in the 17th century, probably in Venice. Ottoman traffic with the Venetians brought the shops to the island, and the idea spread from there. In 1652 the first coffee house in England was started in Oxford, and run by a Jewish businessman. The building still exists, and is now known as The Grand Café.

Because my current work-in-progress is set partially in Warsaw, I was interested to learn that the first Polish café, as coffee house were called, was in Warsaw, begun be an enterprising courtier in 1724.

Charles II tried to discourage the patrons of coffeehouses, insisting the gathering places were filled with disgruntled citizens who spread rumors about the present monarch, but citizens ignored the warning and flocked there in droves, assuring the owners of a handsome profit.

Women were banned from most coffeehouse in Europe, especially in England and France, but Germany, for the most part, allowed women to join in the pastime.

In London, Jonathan’s Coffee House posted  stock and commodity prices, a list that eventually evolved into the London Stock Exchange.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, coffee houses became the preferred gathering place for artists and writers, so with the advent of coffee shops in bookstores, the trend continues.


Lynne Marshall said...

Very interesting stuff! We humans love a place to congregate, and I always feel welcomed at my local coffee house.
I bet while all those men sat around the coffee house table, their women sat around a kitchen table somewhere sipping tea! We are social animals, and a warm cup of something just seems like the natural thing to sip while chatting.
I always find your blogs informative and interesting. Thanks!

Emma said...

I don't think I realized the importance of the coffee house until our power went out one winter. We were down 5-6 days. Some friends were down 2 weeks. The coffee house, since it was on a main drag, was one of the first places back up and it became THE gathering ground for news and a warm up. It was a regular little news center! I think that gave me an appreciation for what they must have been in earlier centuries--and just how important they were. King Charles II was probably right to worry. I know we were all taking the power companies name in vain!

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Great post! I had no idea the the NY Stock exchange started with a coffee house. It's not a surprise that in England, women would be banned. Oh well, glad things have changed.

Love coffee.

Thanks for sharing this bit of history.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I recall that Samuel Johnson used to sit around coffee houses. It was a favorite place for the literary set to hang out in England in the 18th century. But I didn't realize that women were banned.

Now we've gone full circle: visit a B&N bookstore and people are sitting drinking coffee and reading.

jenny milchman said...

If you put books & coffee together, you get one pretty fantastic world. Interesting to learn some of the history of the cafe experience.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jenny that combining coffee and books is a pretty great way to use your time. Thanks for the history. Very interesting.

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