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From gossip get-togethers to grab-and-go

Posted by: | September 9, 2014 | No Comment |

Walk into a coffeehouse today, what do you see? A few tables of people chatting, more tables of people by themselves, attached to their iPhone or glued to their laptop or tablet, and the majority of people grabbing their coffee to go and running out to get on with their busy lives.

Walk into a coffeehouse in London 300 years ago, and the site is completely different. Long wooden tables are filled with well-dressed men, drinking a murky dark cup of coffee, yelling and shouting about the news of the day, their political opinions, and whatever else excites them.


A 1668 illustration showing a contemporary London coffee house



The progression of coffeehouses over the years has been one of immense change and development. They began as a means of communication; an open platform for important men of England to share their views on the latest politics and breaking news. They were loud and steamy, and many accounts recall the experiences as get-together of eloquent members of society using the environment as platform to speak their thoughts, often rashly and obnoxiously. One article quotes: “it is an exchange, where haberdashers of political small-wares meet, and mutually abuse each other, and the public, with bottomless stories, and heedless notions,”


But today, coffeehouses serve a much different purpose. Yes, they are still used as meeting spots. But usually for meetings of just a few people, speaking quietly about private matters. More often they are used by iindividualsto spend time doing work on their various technological devices. And even more frequently they are used to quickly fuel today’s society of on-the-run go-getters.


Also interesting is today’s focus on the actual coffee. Coffee was at first not praised at all for its taste; it was pretty disgusting. It was used simply as an excuse to get together. Now, fine coffee is almost as bourgeois as fine wine — and coffeehouses are continuously being built around unique blends of the now-delicious beverage. It seems as though everyday a new coffeehouse is popping up, boasting the newest, smoothest blend of fine beans from around the world.

under: Comm 455
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