Posted in Kafevend Blog

Today's blog marks the end of our look at the origins of our favourite hot drinks, as we take a look at how coffee made its way through Europe and into Britain. As we mentioned at the end of the last blog, coffee first entered Europe by way of Venice. Here, it was met with the same mix of pleasure and displeasure by the Italians as it had created amongst the peoples of the Middle East. Conflict between the lower and middle classes and the ruling elite appeared, along with a moral conflict on whether such a heathen drink should be accepted. Apparently, Pope Clement VII decided to try a cup himself and gave the drink his blessing, which must have annoyed coffee's detractors!

Although coffee first appeared in Venice, it was not the only place where coffee entered the continent over the years. Half way through the 17th century, French traders who had visited Istanbul brought coffee back to Marseille. From there, it also made its way to Paris as its popularity grew. An ambassador from the Ottoman Empire managed to get the French royal court hooked on coffee during a visit, and even donated some coffee to them.

In 1683, The city of Vienna in Austria discovered coffee by rather odd means. At the end of the Battle of Vienna in the September of that year, the Austrian army discovered, amongst other things, hundreds of sacks left behind by the retreating Ottoman forces. Inside them was coffee, and before long coffee houses began to spring up around the city doling out the spoils of war.

Coffee had made its way to Britain by the beginning of the 17th century, after it was introduced by Dutch traders. However, it wasn't until 1652 and the opening of the country's first coffee house in Oxford that it began to take off. Two years later in London another coffee house was opened by Pasqua Rosée with the help of his friend and former employer Daniel Roberts, and the drink soon became big news and hugely popular in the capital. Two decades later, there were an estimated three thousand coffee houses throughout Britain.

Popular with many people from all walks of life, coffee houses began to be known as penny universities, as for the price of a cup of coffee you could sit, talk with and learn from the many scholarly types who frequented them. Businesses also started up in coffee houses, the most famous being Lloyds of London- the proprietor found good business in catering towards merchants, and soon began organising insurance with them.

Coffee was only able to enjoy a short time in the limelight before tea arrived in Britain around a decade later. Though tea has been the nation's drink of choice since then, coffee has always been there in the background waiting to make its comeback. Happily in the last twenty years, it has made that comeback, thanks in large part to the resurgence of coffee shop culture. Why not visit your local one this week and raise a cup to coffee's continued success!

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