The world of coffee would not be the same without the coffee shops and spaces themselves. They are an important hub for humans when it comes to meeting and exchanging ideas, as well as spending time with people you love.
They are also the outward facing, publicly interacting part of the industry. They shape people’s opinions on what coffee is and what it can be. They bare the responsibility of convincing the public why coffee is so wonderful.
But how did it start? How did the first coffee shops around the world pave the way for the way we live today?
The first record of a public space that could be defined as a coffee shop by todays standards dates back to 1475 and was named Kiva Han. It was located in Constantinople, which is now known as Istanbul in Turkey. The coffee was brewed black and strong and the whole culture around the drink was, and still is taken extremely seriously over there. It was so important during that time that it was legal and valid for a woman to divorce her husband should he be unable to provide her with enough coffee! Sounds fair enough to me…
Around this time and for the next hundred years or so there were recordings of coffee house styled places scattered around the Near East. They were called “gahveh khaneh” and one can only assume these were appearing due to the power and influence of the Turkish Empire. These places were important cultural hubs at the time; Music and chess were played, performances took place, and news and events were relayed here. They became so integral in the exchanging of knowledge that they were even being referred to as “Schools of the Wise”.
It wasn’t until around 1529 when the first coffee house opened in Europe. This was after the Turkish army left bags of coffee behind after fleeing during the battle of Vienna. Franz Georg Kolschitzky (worth a Google!!!) considered these a “spoil of war” and decided to take it upon himself and opened a coffee house. He brought the idea of filtering coffee to the public, as well as introducing sugar and cream to the beverage. Obviously, people loved this. So unsurprisingly, when he also began serving pastries and cakes the whole place exploded in popularity.
Very quickly coffee houses became centres of socialisation and communication in major cities across Europe. In England, they were referred to as “Penny Universities” due to the fact that for that single price you could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in interesting conversation.
Coffee itself was starting to replace wine and beer as the go-to breakfast beverage because, obviously, people were performing and feeling better after a cup of coffee in the morning!
By the mid 17th century there were over 300 coffee houses in London alone and certain ones attracted certain people. You had places that were preferred by brokers, or sailors or even artists. In fact, a lot of these specialised spaces evolved into businesses outside of the coffee game. Lloyds of London for example, was developed through the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House! It’s amazing what one can achieve when caffeinated and inspired!
When America was colonised it wasn’t long before the coffee house market followed. They were consistently popular due to the same reasons they had been everywhere else; they were a social hub for the exchange of ideas and a hotspot for the business community.
Over the next couple hundred years, coffee spaces grew and evolved. They began developing individuality and what defined a coffee house was starting to fall onto a spectrum. However; it wasn’t until the 1900’s when the Espresso was introduced and their machines were rolled out that coffee shops began to take on a new level of commercialism. Chains were popping up and the accessibility of coffee was becoming more widespread. It became the beverage of choice for many, and popping to a coffee shop on the way to work was the norm.
Without even realising it coffee shops and the culture of the industry has woven into, and actually fuelled a lot of the world we live in today.
In fact, it continues to do so, and coffee spaces are continuing to evolve. One can only imagine what the average coffee shop will look like in 20 years time!