Nowadays, coffee is such a big part of our social culture that it’s hard to imagine a time without it. It came to the UK in the 17th century, well after sugar first made its appearance here but before tea reached our shores.
European travellers to the Near East (an area roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East) discovered coffee, and brought back travellers’ tales of the energising drink.
When coffee first arrived in Europe, it caused some controversy. Its opponents called it the ‘bitter invention of Satan’, and tried to get it outlawed. The story goes that when coffee was first brought to Venice in the early 17th century, local clergy tried to persuade parishioners not to partake. The conflict raged so hard that eventually Pope Clement VIII was asked to make a final ruling on whether or not coffee was acceptable to drink. Before making a decision, he tasted a cup himself and enjoyed it so much that coffee got the full Papal seal of approval, and it quickly became an Italian staple.
Elsewhere in Europe, coffee houses were quickly springing up as meeting places and information exchanges, with the first recorded one being in 1645. England’s first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1652, and another famous Oxford landmark, the Queen’s Lane Coffee House, was established in 1654 and is still serving coffee today. In England the coffee shops came to be called ‘penny universities’, as a penny bought you a seat at a table and a cup of coffee, and meant you could join in the lively discussions taking place on every side.
Only a few decades after coffee first appeared in the UK, there were more than 3,000 coffee houses in London, some of which started to operate like early prototypes of gentlemen’s clubs, attracting patrons with shared interests. In 1698, Jonathan’s Coffee House was frequented by bankers and stockbrokers and eventually evolved into the London Stock Exchange.
Here at the Wholesale Coffee Company, we’re keeping up with the proud tradition of coffee in Britain by supplying top quality coffee and coffee accessories at great wholesale prices. For more information, please visit www.wholesalecoffeecompany.co.uk.