Coffee house culture changed British society

Great influence on British politics and culture in the 17th century

If cafe culture flourished in France, coffee house culture had a great influence on society for 100 years from the late 17th century across the Strait of Dover in England.

A coffee house is literally a shop or coffee shop where you can drink coffee, a novelty that was introduced from the Arab world, and is said to have first appeared in Constantinople, Turkey, in the 1550s.

From there, coffee and coffee houses were introduced to Venice, Italy, France, and England.

Coffee shops like this existed all over Europe, but in world history, the term ``coffee house'' refers to the coffee houses that were popular in England in the late 17th century.
<The inside of the coffee shop. Customers drinking coffee are seated at a long table with pipes in hand. Coffee is being served from the counter on the left, and a coffee pot is being heated in the fireplace in the back. Painting from around 1700 ( Trustees of the British Museum) >

This is because it formed its own unique culture and had a great influence on the economy, society, and culture of Britain at the time. It is even more interesting that such a coffee culture was born in England, which is now known as a country of tea.

Jürgen Habermas, a famous modern German philosopher, took a cue from the ``public sphere'' proposed by Hannah Arendt, and called the ``public sphere'' the discussion that modern citizens had as equals in coffee houses and book clubs. I called it.

The ``public sphere'' is a place where everyone can participate and where public opinion is formed through autonomous discussion. The popularity of coffeehouses in England was such that it had such a great impact that it brought about changes in the social structure.

How was coffee drunk?

Now, before we talk about the origin and rise of coffee houses in England, I would like to take a look at how coffee was drunk here from the late 17th century to the 18th century.

In the Islamic world, where coffee was widely consumed before Europe, the common method was to roast coffee beans, crush them, and boil them in water (initially, the beans and their surrounding husks were roasted together, but By the time it was introduced to Europe, only the beans were roasted).

In the late 17th century, pots and pots specifically made for coffee were made in Turkey and Arabia, and they were used to brew coffee for several people at once. This method was also used in Turkish coffeehouses, and it is believed that this method was introduced to Europe.

Today, Turkish coffee is still made by boiling powder, sugar, and water in a coffee pot called a cezve (iblik).

Initially, in Europe, sugar was imported in small quantities and was very expensive, so in Venice they added spices instead of sugar (there were also Arabs who added spices to their drinks. However, spices from Southeast Asia were also very expensive). Ta).

Britain had a source for this sugar: the Caribbean colonies. Britain increased sugar production by developing plantations and sending slaves, and in the late 17th century began importing large amounts of sugar.

In this way, people began to enjoy the exotic combination of coffee and sugar at coffeehouses. Furthermore, tobacco was also popular, so products from the triangular trade entered people's lives here.

The rise of coffee houses

Britain's first coffee house was opened in Oxford in 1650, at the height of the Puritan Revolution, by a Jewish man named Jacobs. It is said that it was first drunk for its medicinal properties in relieving hangovers.

The first coffee house in London is said to have been opened in St. Michael's Lane, northwest of the Tower of London, in 1652 by a Greek servant named Pasqua Roset of the merchant Edwards. In 1656, a man named James Farr opened the Rainbow Coffee House in Fleet Street, which became famous and attracted many visitors. After this, the number of coffee houses rapidly increased, and by the beginning of the 18th century, there were approximately 3,000 coffee houses in London.

Role as an information center

<Gallaway Coffee House, located on a street called Exchange Alley. There is a sign posted at the left entrance>
Samuel Pepys, a famous diarist who lived in London in the 17th century, was a high-ranking official in the Admiralty, and is known for his candid accounts of his life.

According to his diary, he visited his favorite coffee house near the Royal Exchange in London at least three times a week, sometimes twice a day. They were gathering information to meet friends and colleagues they had agreed to, or simply to hear about trade and politics.
For the economic activities of the emerging bourgeoisie that had been gathering power since the mid-17th century, coffeehouses served as centers for exchanging business information.

Merchants exchanged information by obtaining information from aristocrats and influential people who frequented the imperial court and parliament, and in some cases transactions themselves were also conducted here. For example, the Garraway Coffee House in Cornhill, London, had a unique way of trading ships, and sugar, coffee, timber, spices, and tea were also traded in separate coffee houses. Jonathan Coffee House, also in Cornhill, was stock trading. This area is famous for being the scene of the Nankai Foam Incident of 1720, which caused a major problem at the time when the stock price of a trading company called the Nankai Company soared and then the bubble burst.

Coffee houses also gave rise to the insurance industry. Around 1692, Lloyd's Coffee House began publishing ``Lloyd's News,'' which contained ship information, for customers, and began handling marine insurance. At that time, insurance was underwritten by individual financiers, but since it was difficult for individuals to underwrite high-risk items such as marine transportation, underwriters gathered at Lloyd's began to jointly underwrite insurance. The current Lloyd's Insurance Society and the London insurance market known as Lloyd's originated in coffee houses.

In this way, it was clearly decided which coffee house to go to and what kind of information one could get. The same was true for political parties.

Journalism emerges as political and economic information gathers

<The Spectator, a representative daily newspaper published in London in the 18th century, published on June 4, 1711. One of the magazines I enjoyed at the coffee shop (British Library collection)
Admission to the coffee house was a penny, coffee was cheap at a penny, and any male could enter. It was also a place where discussions could be held freely.

In the late 17th century, in the aftermath of the Puritan Revolution, coffeehouses were most attractive for their freedom of speech to discuss politics and criticize authority. This is why public opinion is said to have been formed here. Over time, each faction begins meeting in the coffeehouses it patronizes.

Coffee houses were places where people could obtain such political and economic information. Newspapers and magazines that compile and print this information began to appear one after another, and were placed in coffee houses so that they could be read. Journalists who publish newspapers and magazines also obtained information at coffeehouses. Coffeehouses played a major role in the emergence of journalism.

From the late 17th century to the early 18th century, London's coffeehouses were populated by a wide variety of people, from noble gentlemen to cheaters. On the one hand, political debates involved criticism of poetry and drama, and on the other, literary theory; on the other hand, business transactions took place, and a variety of information was exchanged. The ``coffee house culture'' blossomed.

However, these coffeehouse functions were replaced by clubs where only a limited number of members gathered, rather than a wide open space. Meanwhile, in the 19th century, coffeehouses transformed into places where workers could gather and read newspapers and magazines.
References: Akio Kobayashi, “Coffee House: History of Urban Life – 18th Century London”, Jundando Publishing, 1982.