Written by Stephen Sybert
The coffeehouse. A true staple to virtually any society today. But just how long has it been that way? Many may be tempted to think that the current coffeehouse craze today is simply a fad. However, this does not seem to be the case as the coffeehouse has a rich history and tradition that dates back to around the early 1500s.
Coffee began to pick up popularity in the Arab world in Yemen in the early 1500s. It actually became so popularized that the rich generally would have a room set aside in their house for coffee. For the people who did not have the same privilege, there were the kaveh kanes. This was the colloquial term for a coffeehouse in Yemen at the time. These places were a mixed bag of both irreverence and revelry along with entertainment, business, inspiration, and poetry. They would ultimately spread throughout the Arab world and then begin to take hold in Europe as well.
In Europe Coffee started to become popularized around 1650 with the opening of the first coffeehouse in England at Oxford University and then the next to follow just a few years later. Some accounts say that by 1700 there were around two thousand coffeehouses in London alone! These places provided what was the first true egalitarian meeting place in England where one was expected to strike up a conversation with whomever they may find themselves sitting with. In Italy, similarly to England, the first coffee stands began popping up on Italian streets around 1650 and then the first coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683. Named Caffe for the beverage it served, it quickly became a place renowned for a relaxed atmosphere, lively conversations, and excellent food. In the 1670s Coffee became popularized in Germany and by 1721 there were coffeehouses in most major German cities.It actually became so popular that by 1777 the German ruler Frederick the Great outlawed coffee in order to preserve beer culture in Germany. Coffee would eventually outlast this stifling attempt. In France the first coffeehouse was opened in 1689 and shortly after that coffeehouses became a staple meeting place for French intellectuals such as actors, musicians, authors, philosophers, and even political agitators. Some historians even point to the rise in coffeehouse culture as one of the major factors that led to the French Revolution. All things considered, coffeehouses in Europe became known as a place in which people from all walks of life could sit down together and have a great conversation regardless of status, wealth, race, or gender.
Of course coffee did not simply stay in the eastern hemisphere. It was brought over and even began to be grown in the Americas by various colonial powers, explorers, and immigrants. The first coffeehouse opened in Boston in 1689 and early on in colonial coffeehouses there were not many distinctions separating the coffeehouse from the tavern as coffeehouses generally served a wide range of beverages. Their popularity grew considerably as the American revolution grew closer due to the colonists boycott of British tea. In fact a coffeehouse called Green Dragon was the chosen meeting place for men such as John Adams, James Otis, and Paul Revere who would discuss the ways in which they would instigate their rebellion. It was so popular among the revolutionaries that it was eventually prompted “the headquarters of the Revolution”. As the United States expanded coffeehouses grew with it. During the gold rush there were many coffeehouses started in the west United States to cater to minors. Today they continue to be a staple in our society as a meeting place for wide varieties of people and communities.
Here at Free Press Coffee we are proud to carry on this tradition of the coffeehouse in all of our locations throughout Illinois. In Pittsfield, Mt. Sterling, and Springfield we are striving to create a space that can service the community as a “front porch for all”.
Stephen is a Lead Barista in our Toronto Rd. location.