An Ode to the History of a Coffee House in 18 Pictures
An Ode to the History of a Coffee House in 18 Pictures

Everybody has one. Your favorite spot to socialize, to recharge or be super productive.

This is an ode to the coffee shop.

It can be a hole in the wall (shout out to the New Yorkers) or, if you’re lucky enough to live in Europe, a beautiful, spacious café. It is your happy place—your home outside of home.

The story of the coffee shop is as interesting as drinking coffee itself. It’s not a coincidence that there’s a term: “coffee culture.” It has been coined for centuries. Let’s appreciate this process for a moment, shall we? Here are some of the most interesting highlights:

1. It all began in Muslim culture between 1511 and 1524.

Storyteller (meddah) at a coffeehouse in the Ottoman Empire
Storyteller (meddah) at a coffeehouse in the Ottoman Empire. (NYPL)

 

2. The very first cafe was opened in Damascus in 1530. It would have been similar to this:

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The coffee-shop of Cairo in ca 17th century. (NYPL)

 

A café in Istanbul, 19th century
A café in Istanbul, 19th century

 

3. It took exactly 99 years for a first coffee house in Europe to appear. It was in the beautiful city of Venice, thanks to a bustling business route between Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

Piazza San Marco , Basilica, Venice, Italy, ca. 1895. (Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons)
Piazza San Marco , Basilica, Venice, Italy, ca. 1895. (Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons)

 

4. But, as Europeans quickly realized the potential of coffee houses, they quickly spread all over the continent. Most of them were established by Armenians.

Cafe Griensteidl vor 1897. (Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons)
Cafe Griensteidl, Germany, 1897. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

 

5. England’s first recorded coffee house was set up in Oxford in 1650, in 1652 in London.

Coffeehouse in London, 17th century
Coffeehouse in London, 17th century

 

6. Women were not allowed to step in at that time, which lead to the Women’s Petition Against Coffee” published in 1674. 

To Upholsterers, 1876, NYPL
To Upholsterers, 1876 (NYPL)

 

7. London coffee houses were nicknamed “Penny Universities,” referring to the price of a cup of coffee, and the conversations to be had with the thinkers of the day, who could be found there.

A 17th-century depiction of a coffee house in London. (Public Domain)
A 17th-century depiction of a coffee house in London. (Public Domain)

 

8. England is also where tipping originated. A jar was placed on a counter reading “To Insure Prompt Service.”

London's coffee house. (Public Domain)
London’s coffee house. (Public Domain)

 

9. Allegedly, some men were spending so much of their time in cafes, their mail was delivered there directly. 

At The Authors' Club, New York, 1886, NYPL
At The Authors’ Club, New York, 1886 (NYPL)

 

10. The insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London originated as a coffee house

Lloyds coffee house in London, by William Holland. (Public Domain)
Lloyds coffee house in London, by William Holland. (Public Domain)

 

11. A French café,  Café Procope, opened in 1686 and is arguably the birthplace of the Encyclopédie, the first modern encyclopedia.

Intérieur d'un café public, sur la place de Top-hané, Paris, 181?, NYPL
Intérieur d’un café public, sur la place de Top-hané, Paris, 181?, (NYPL)

 

12. Few English and French cafes from that period still exist today.

 

 

Good Morning Oxfordshire! ⛅️✨ | #ShoesNumber5andmyjourney

A photo posted by ・MAYLYNN・ (@maylynnn) on

 

13. In Vienna, Austria, a Polish man named Franz George Kolschitzky is said to be the first to set up a cafe. The story goes that he discovered green coffee beans left by the Turks that were surrounding Austria’s capital. 

George Franz Kolschitzky in
George Franz Kolschitzky. (Public Domain)

 

14. He was also the first one to serve coffee with milk. 

Vienna's first coffee house. (Public Domain)
Vienna’s first coffee house. (Public Domain)

 

15. America’s first coffee house was opened in Boston in 1676.

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The Cafés of the Paris Exhibition: The American Café (1886), via artsemerson.tumblr.com

 

 

16. For New Yorkers, coffee houses were also places for court trials or council meetings

Café of the Democratic Club, showing prominent leaders of the Democratic party and of Tammany Hall, 1899, NYPL
Café of the Democratic Club, showing prominent leaders of the Democratic party and of Tammany Hall, NYC, 1899 (NYPL)

 

17. During the 19th century, and reaching a peak between the 1st and 2nd world wars in the early 20th century, cafes were important meeting points for many political, literature or art groups. 

"Discussing the War in a Paris Café", The Illustrated London News 17 September 1870
“Discussing the War in a Paris Café”, The Illustrated London News, 1870. (Public Domain)

 

18. Café, cafe or coffee house? Different names for same magical place!

Café Lafayette, 1914, New York
Café Lafayette, 1914, New York. (NYPL)
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