You For Coffee?

Are you a coffee or a tea drinker? I hail originally for Yorkshire and part of my constitution is tea. I have to start the day with a cup of tea, ideally, Yorkshire, hot, medium strength, skimmed milk, no sugar. However, I am also a coffee lover so after I have enjoyed my first tea drink of the day I like to follow it with a cup of coffee. Once upon a time I would have drunk instant coffee but now I prefer freshly ground coffee with hot frothy milk. It has in itself become an institution in my life and a cup of instant just doesn’t cut it. Now that I have moved back to the shire of rural Wiltshire with my urban sensibilities for decent coffee I was pleased when in my small town two coffee houses opened their doors. Seriously, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get a decent cup of coffee in the shire.

Recently, I invited a friend in for a coffee and she said “I will but only if it’s filter coffee I just can’t bear instant coffee anymore”. Fortunately, I was able to cater to her needs. Coffee snobbery is becoming more prevalent and I can completely understand where she is coming from. Hagar just purchased for his room in the mess a brand new coffee machine. A Nespresso, with little capsules of coffee delight. It makes the most wonderful coffee. It’s almost worth the hassle of the car pass and the faff to visit him just for the coffee he creates.

Although, the English are more famous for drinking tea I have definitely noticed a rise in coffee drinking amongst my friends and peers. I think also as boozing throughout the day becomes less and less de rigeur, the rise in coffee popularity will continue to grow.

The history of coffee spans as far back as the thirteenth century with various myths surrounding its first use. The original native population of coffee may have come from Ethiopia, Sudan or Kenya, and it was cultivated by Arabs from the 14th century. Early credible evidence of drinking coffee or information of the coffee tree can be seen in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. By the 16th century, it spread further into the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and northern Africa. Coffee then appeared in the Balkans, Italy and to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia and then to the Americas.

Largely as a result of the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, coffee became available in England no later than the 16th century according to an account written by Leonhard Rauwolf in 1583. The first coffeehouse in England opened in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill. The proprietor called Pasqua Rosée,  was the servant of Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods. Edwards imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up. Oxford’s Queen’s Lane Coffee House, began in 1654, still exist today.

There were more than 3,000 coffeehouses throughout England by 1675.  But the progressive movement of coffeehouses between the 1660s and 1670’s was often contested.  These coffee houses in England became places for deep discussion of beliefs during the enlightenment, about religious and political issues of the time. This practice of religious and political discussion became so common that Charles II made an attempt to ban coffee houses in 1675.

The banning of women from coffeehouses was commonplace in Europe. In Germany women frequented them, but in England they were prohibited.

This new commodity proved controversial for instance, the anonymous 1674 “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” declared:

the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE …has…Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.

Coffee with a great head of milk
Coffee with a great head of milk

Many believed coffee to have several medicinal properties in this period. For example, a 1661 tract entitled “A character of coffee and coffee-houses”, written by one “M.P.”, listed the benefits:

‘Tis extolled for drying up the Crudities of the Stomack, and for expelling Fumes out of the Head. Excellent Berry! which can cleanse the English-man’s Stomak of Flegm, and expel Giddinesse out of his Head.

Over 400 years later and coffee consumption is still growing strong!! You for coffee?



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