Coffeehouse Culture – An Invigorating and Aromatic Epidemic


The Buddhist philosophy which preaches that life is a circle in which all beings finally arrive at their starting point is indeed applicable to the coffeehouse culture which is believed to have originated as early as 1000 A.D. in the arid deserts of ancient Arabia. When the Arab farmers decided to roast and brew the beans with the intention of spending their evenings sipping the strong broth and enjoying the after-effects of renewed energy, they inadvertently established the first coffeehouse in the world which was soon to develop into a culture of its own.

True coffeehouse culture was first developed in Mecca in form of the ‘kaveh kanes’ where people flocked to spend their evenings playing chess, discussing current events and dancing while sipping the aromatic beverage. Like a virus which spreads quickly, the passion for coffeehouses spread to Turkey where it manifested itself in the form of the first coffeehouse named Kiva Han in the city of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1475. Such was the magnetism of the atmosphere created by this aromatic beverage that the coffeehouse culture soon arrived in Cairo, Egypt, and finally inundated Europe during the 17th century.

The coffeehouse culture of Europe echoed the unique and distinct identity of the continent itself and its efficacy could be gauged by the fact that some of the prominent coffeehouses which were established at that time are still in business today. Some of the prominent names which were responsible for contributing significantly to the continuance of the coffeehouse culture were Café Le Procope which was established in 1686 in Paris and fathered the first generation coffeehouses in London and Boston.

Soon the coffeehouses in England were coined ‘penny universities’ as any individual could gain entry by paying a single penny as a fee and spend his evening over a two-penny cup of coffee which was inclusive of the newspaper as well. The focus of conversation was very much in tune with the trend set by the ancient Arab coffee drinkers and the coffeehouse soon came to be regarded as forums for political discussions and platforms for expressing opinions.

An interesting aspect of the coffeehouse culture during that epoch was that this venue was solely meant for men, while women (except for the lady doling out the coffee in cups) were barred from being present. But this attitude transformed over a period of time and as the coffeehouse culture became universal, so did the crowd of this venue expand to include all segments of the population who wished to enjoy this wonderful beverage.

Soon the coffeehouse culture evolved, and while became some cafes offering music and dancing to their clients, others hosted auctions and served as centers where stock traders could relax and conduct their trade. Now as the world has entered into the 21st century, the coffeehouse culture is still going strong, courtesy of modern international coffeehouse chains like Starbucks and Indian chains like Barista and Café Coffee day.