Centuries ago, coffee shops in London, England, were politically provocative, and were frequented by well-known scholars and bohemian swingers. The London historian Dr. Matthew Green recounted some little-known anecdotes about London’s early coffee shops.
The Starbucks Cafe on Russell Street near Covent Garden Square in London is one of many similar cafes in London. Can you imagine the experience of walking into a cafe, sitting next to a stranger and asking him for the latest news? Or throw a recently published novel by someone’s coffee cup and ask for his opinion before expressing your opinion? This kind of behavior can make people feel weird, but in London more than 300 years ago, thousands of cafes were like this. At that time, poets, playwrights, journalists, and the general public often gathered in cafes, sitting at long wooden tables, drinking, thinking, writing, and discussing literature until late at night.
In London, every time you drink a cup of coffee, it is as if you are participating in a ceremony that dates back more than 360 years and was held in a muddy church courtyard in central London. In 1652, the first coffee shop in London (more precisely called a coffee stand) was opened by an eccentric Greek named Pasquale Rosse. At that time, while serving as a servant of a British Levantine businessman in Smyrna, Turkey (the old name of Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city), Rose gradually became interested in the exotic Turkish drink, coffee. Decided to import it to London. Thus, the first coffee shop in London was opened in St. Michael’s Lane, Cornhill Street, London. People from all walks of life flock to his small cafés, meeting, drinking, chatting, thinking, writing… all these are driven by coffee.
It didn’t take long for Pascua Rosse to sell more than 600 coffees a day. At this time, the owners of the beer shops and bistros on Cornhill Street could only watch desperately. What made them feel worse was the coffee. It is described as an antidote to drunkenness, violence, and lust, and a catalyst for people to purify their minds, enhance their wisdom, and mature. Pascua Rosse drove the prosperity of the coffee shop, and his coffee, known as the “bitter Islamic porridge”, will also profoundly change London.
By 1663, there were a total of 82 coffee shops within the ancient Roman walls of London. These cafes were built on the ruins after a serious fire in London. King Charles II of England tried to destroy them in 1675, but they survived in the end. At that time, what made Charles II quite disturbed was that anyone could freely talk about political affairs in a café as long as he paid 1 penny. The term “café politician” refers to the category of people who stay in the cafe all day, talk about political affairs, and share their opinions with anyone willing to listen. In that era, although some cafes had female employees, no decent woman was willing to come to these places. The “Women Against Coffee Petition” published in 1674 lamented that “a novel, hateful, pagan liquid called coffee” has turned those diligent and energetic men into sissy, The chattering slacker, so that they only know to spend time in the cafe.
However, these people did not arouse widespread public concern, so that London has become a city of coffee addicts. Historians of the 21st century believe that there were close to 550 coffee shops in London at the beginning of the 18th century.
The early coffee shops in London were not exactly the same. Many coffee shops have their own distinctive characteristics. For example, the Chelsea Cafe opened by Don Saltro, whose walls are decorated with exotic animal specimens, has become a topic of discussion among local gentlemen and scientists; Lent Coffee opened in Clerkenwell Green In the museum, customers can drink coffee, have a haircut, and enjoy the passionate speech delivered by the shop owner on the abolition of slavery; while in the Morkin Café, the swingers can wake up from the night’s swig and browse. This list of prostitutes was then taken to some brothels on the streets nearby; there was even a floating café called “The Fools of Thames” outside Somerset Palace, where excited dancers performed waltz and Jig dance, dance until late at night…
Although the styles of early London cafes were diverse, they basically followed the same pattern, which was to maximize interaction between customers and create a pleasant and creative environment. As soon as customers enter the door, they will be surrounded by smoke, water vapor and sweat, and startled by the shouts of “What do you have news” or “Sir, is there any news in Tripoli (the capital of Libya)”. Rows of well-dressed men with wigs are sitting around a rectangular wooden table. The table is full of various media items-newspapers, pamphlets, printed matter, communication manuscripts, folk songs, and even political parties and politics. Content playing cards. The interiors of some cafes are comfortable and simple: planed wooden floors, siding on the walls, candles and peculiar spittoons. In the distance, a boy wearing a flowing wig, like a Cupid, will bring a cup of coffee, the general cost is 1 penny, and you can add it countless times for free after drinking. Once coffee is provided, it should be time to communicate with other guests in the cafe.
The conversation between customers is the lifeblood of the cafe. A British scholar named Samuel Pepys recorded some fantasy stories and metaphysical discussions from cafes all over London, such as a trip through the towering mountains of Asia, which distinguished between being awake and dreaming The state is futile, and so on. Listening and talking with strangers—sometimes a few hours—was considered the basic principles of coffee shops at the time. The debate generally ends with the judgment of others. There is a “theatre thermometer” in the Bedford Café, and the temperature ranges from “excellent” to “obnoxious”. After the premiere night of the latest play, the playwrights were afraid to walk into this cafe to be judged, just as politicians did not want to walk into the Westminster Café after speaking to Parliament. The Hoxton Square Café is known for its investigations of insanity, where a person suspected of being a lunatic will be tied up and pushed to the cafe in a wheelchair, and then a group of people drinking coffee The jury will observe, stimulate, and talk to the so-called lunatic, and finally decide whether to put the “defendant” in a local lunatic asylum by voting. Cafes are places for democratic judgments. Customers’ dressing, smartness and even the way they hold spoons-all of which will be closely watched and discussed.
The cafés in the City of London bring people together and at the same time bring people’s thoughts together; they have inspired many outstanding ideas and discoveries, making Britain the envy of the whole world. The Royal Exchange hosted the world’s first stock and securities trading at Jonathan’s Cafe; merchants, captains, cartographers, and stockbrokers joined forces at the Lloyd’s Cafe on Lombard Street and later evolved into a famous British The Lloyd’s Insurance Company; the cafés around the Royal Society inspired a breakthrough in the field of science. The famous scientist Isaac Newton once dissected a dolphin on a table in a Greek café.
However, how much of the inspiration of these innovative ideas should be attributed to the coffee itself? Compared with the coffee brewed through precise recipes today, the taste of 18th century coffee can be said to be unpleasant. Even many people at the time found it extremely unpleasant. It is usually combined with ink, coal ash, and soil. Even feces are on par. But coffee can make people addicted, uplifting, and inspiring at the same time, so the taste is secondary.
Nowadays, the coffee in London cafes is undoubtedly more fragrant and mellow than in the 18th century. However, the opportunity and interest for lively exchanges and discussions among strangers are slowly disappearing.