The Coffee House – A History

Coffee was cultivated in Africa as early as the 9th century, but it did not reach Europe until the 17th century. However, when it did, it was met with many varying opinions. It still caught on like a wildfire, even with the people that detested its existence. The 18th century London coffee house was the center of controversy, in many ways, even to the point of the king trying to ban coffee and close the establishments. Being the place for political discussion, some of the policies of our newly formed country might have originated in one of these places.

Coffee did not come via a direct route from Africa, but found its way to Britain through Mediterranean trade routes with the Muslim world. Queen Elizabeth I irritated her European neighbors by opening up diplomatic relations with her new-found Moroccan and Ottoman friends, establishing good trading relations and sea-faring agreements. This trade allowed goods such as tea from Asia, coffee, and chocolate to filter into England. The Middle East had coffee houses over a hundred years before they ever appeared in England.

In 1652 Pasqua Rosee, the servant of a merchant trader and an immigrant from Ottoman Smyrna, opened the first coffee house in London, which later became known as “The Turks Head.” “Rosee’s coffee-house, in St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, was located in the centre of the financial district of the City of London, and his first clientele were merchants of the Levant Company, the trading house that organised and regulated trade with the Ottoman Empire.” 1

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