28th
Jan
2013

Posted in Reference

Whilst small amounts of coffee had reached countries in Europe near the end of the 16th century, larger quantities did not first appear until Venetian merchants brought coffee to Venice from trade with North Africa. It was a popular drink amongst the nobles, whom the traders charged heavily. Like the Arab world before it though, there were outcries against the use of coffee from various parties, including the clergy. Eventually Pope Clement VIII was asked to pass his judgment on it. Before making a decision, it is said he tried a cup himself, discovered it to be a satisfying drink and gave it Papal approval. I imagine that rather upset the naysayers!

Whilst coffee had earned the approval of the Pope, it still had a way to go before reaching the masses. It didn't take too long for these circumstances to change however, as the Dutch had managed to obtain some coffee bushes in the early 17th century. Taken back to Amsterdam and placed in the botanical gardens there, the plants thrived, and by the middle of the 17th century they had taken offshoots to their colonies in India, Indonesia and South America, controlled by the powerful Dutch West & East India Companies. With these plantations under their own control, the Dutch soon became the leading suppliers of a vast wave of coffee throughout Europe.

As with the opposition against coffee, Europe also shared the Middle East's sudden proliferation of coffee houses- Of course, coffee was drunk in numerous countries without the need of coffee houses, but their rise helps to chart its popularity throughout the continent. The first European coffee house is recorded as appearing in 1645 in Venice. Other firsts throughout Europe include England in 1650, France in 1672 and Vienna in 1685. It did not take long for these first few establishments be joined by many, many more: for example, by 1675, only 23 years after the first coffee house established, there were around 3,000 in England. Such was its popularity, that when Charles II attempted to suppress the glut of coffee houses, accusing them of harbouring political and royal dissenters, there was a huge outcry from the English people which put a halt to his plan. Such was coffee's growing popularity that even the will of a king could not stand before it.

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