Most of us know by now that coffee was first cultivated in Africa. This happened around the ninth century. The coffeehouse however originated in the Middle East somewhere around the middle of the sixteenth century, specifically in the Ottoman Empire. This exotic drink found it’s way to Britain through the Mediterranean trade routes with the Muslim world. Some disdain was “brewed” up in Europe for Queen Elizabeth I when she opened diplomatic relations with Morocco and the Ottomans. Besides coffee, this trade led to goods such as tea, chocolate and new spices coming to England. In 1675 King Charles II made an attempt to ban coffee and close all the coffee shops in London. The proclamation, a reaction to his worry over political dissent was withdrawn two days before it was to take effect. The reason? His coffee-loving ministers convinced him it was not a good idea.
Little more than a century after the first coffeehouses were established in Ottoman territory, the initial London shop was started in 1652 by Pasqua Rosee, an immigrant servant, originally from...you guessed it, the Ottoman Empire(hereafter listed as OE). His coffeehouse, located in London’s financial district was called the Turk’s Head. The first patrons were merchants from a trading house that organized trade with the OE. Most of these men were likely Turkish immigrants themselves or had been to the OE and had already had the pleasure of tasting “the black pearl” while working there. 1662 saw the opening of another coffeehouse called the Great Turkish Coffee House which sold not only coffee and tea but tobacco and chocolate as well as a variety of Turkish sherberts.
The coffeehouses and their culture, heavily influenced by Islamic customs were viewed as questionable enterprises and were on the fringes of society. Despite the contempt for such institutions, the coffeehouse idea caught on and by the start of the eighteenth century, one could choose from over 500 shops in the city. Often, visiting dignitaries found great joy in frequenting the shops, citing them as one of the premiere pleasures on their trips to London. They became the “hangout” spots we think of today where people come together to discuss business or news, read the paper. They also became a favorite locale for debating politics or perhaps collaborating to subvert the government. American coffeehouses popped up in the late seventeenth century the first in Boston in 1676. They were nearly indiscernible from their British counterparts. Philadelphia’s Merchants Coffee House aka City Tavern welcomed a host of luminaries such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams. I guess you could say that America was grounded in coffee.