Enjoying a coffee

Most widely known as coffeehouses or cafés, establishments serving prepared coffee or other hot beverages have existed for over five hundred years. Various legends involving the introduction of coffee to Istanbul at a "Kiva Han" in the late 15th century circulate in culinary tradition, but with no documentation.

Coffeehouses in Mecca soon became a concern as places for political gatherings to the imams who banned them, and the drink, for Muslims between 1512 and 1524. In 1530 the first coffee house was opened in Damascus, and not long after there were many coffee houses in Cairo. In the 17th century, coffee appeared for the first time in Europe outside the Ottoman Empire, and coffeehouses were established and quickly became popular. The first coffeehouses in Western Europe appeared in Venice, a result of the traffic between La Serenissima and the Ottomans; the very first one is recorded in 1645. The first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish man named Jacob in the building now known as "The Grand Cafe". By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England.

An Armenian named Pascal established in Paris a coffee stall in 1672 that was ultimately unsuccessful and the city had to wait until 1689 for its first coffeehouse when Procopio Cutò opened the Café Procope. This coffeehouse still exists today and was a major meeting place of the French Enlightenment; Voltaire, Rousseau, and Denis Diderot frequented it, and it is arguably the birthplace of the Encyclopédie, the first modern encyclopedia. America had its first coffeehouse in Boston, in 1676.

The modern espresso machine was born in Milan in 1945 by Achille Gaggia, and from there spread across coffeehouses and restaurants across Italy and the rest of Europe and North America in the early 1950s. An Italian named Pino Riservato opened the first espresso bar, the Moka Bar, in Soho in 1952, and there were 400 such bars in London alone by 1956. Cappucino was particularly popular among English drinkers. Similarly in the United States, the espresso craze spread. North Beach in San Francisco saw the opening of the Caffe Trieste in 1957, which saw Beat Generation poets such as Allan Ginsberg and Bob Kaufman alongside bemused Italian immigrants.


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