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European Coffeehouses

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Celeste Smith European History Fletcher September 28, 2009 The Birth of the European Coffeehouse Though the humble origins of the coffeehouse are found in Istanbul some time during the sixteenth century, the introduction of the coffee house to Europe occurred in the mid seventeenth century. Coffee arrived in Europe via trade, diplomacy, war, and immigration, demonstrating its links to the main currents of history, says Steven Topik in "Coffee as a Social Drug." Though Europeans were hesitant at first to try the strange Turkish drink, they were soon won over by the natural effects of the beverage, which boasted curative powers and noticeable energy. According to Ross W. Jamieson in "The Essence of Commodification: Caffeine Dependencies in the Early Modern World," the popularity of the coffee house in Europe was almost instantaneous. ...read more.


Northern Europeans were the largest consumers of coffee, likely relishing the warmth it brought to the cold environment; Londoners, in particular, were known for their enjoyment of the beverage. By 1739, there were over 550 coffeehouses in London, each attracting a different kind of clientele. It would take the rise of the East India Company and Indian colonies and high taxes on coffee to make Britain a tea-totaling country in the nineteenth century. Most importantly, to the Europeans, coffeehouses became meeting places where business could be carried on, news exchanged, and government notices announced, says Topik. London merchants were soon bringing coffee to other already existing establishments. Coffeehouses soon became linked with the stock exchange, the mercantile shopping express, and insurance companies. ...read more.


Women didn't seem to be the only ones against it. Coffeehouses were coming to symbolize and serve the "beneficiaries of capitalist prosperity," says Jamieson, who constituted the new leisure class. However, the pubic had to overcome tax-hungry kings and political unrest to become ardent coffee drinkers. Frederick the Great favored beer because it imported nothing, but failed in his attempt to make coffee a royal monopoly. Similar situations occurred in France, Austria, and Switzerland. Coffeehouse denizens constituted a kind of bourgeois elite, and coffee was said to "stimulate the body while clearing the mind," says Jamieson. Coffeehouses were involved in the birth of civil society, public space, and the democratization of a "semi-feudal aristocracy" (Jamieson). They ignited revolution and unrest, upheaval and modernization, even amidst laws and disapproval pressing in on them from all sides. ...read more.

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