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The arrival of coffee in Britain triggered the rise of coffeehouse culture. Coffeehouses were establishments where men could meet to enjoy the new beverage, talk, discuss issues, gossip, and have fun. 

Not many people are aware of the coffeehouses of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the coffee rise of coffeehouses in Britain was a turning point for several events. 

A brief history of coffee in Britain 

Coffee arrived in Britain in the 16th century, specifically in 1583, according to Leonhard Rauwolf's 1583. The arrival of coffee was to the activities of the British East India company alongside the Dutch East India Company. 

The activities of these companies give rise to coffee and coffee culture in the British. 

Although coffee came in the 15th century, the rise of coffeehouses wasn’t instant. However, the first coffeehouse opened in Oxford in 1652, followed by another in London the same year. 

The opening of these coffee joints accelerated quickly, and by 1675, there were over 3000 locations.

The climax of coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain

Coffeehouses gained popularity, and this saw their number increase in the 17th and 18th centuries. Although the coffee of this time was not as sweet as modern times, people still thronged these places to enjoy the drink.

Also, it was the new fashion, and everyone wanted to be part of it. This led to the establishment of many reputable coffeehouses across Britain.

Usually, coffeehouses did not serve alcohol, and women weren’t allowed like in other public places. Maybe this is the reason women were petitioning for their banning in 1673. 

It is worth noting that each coffeehouse had specific clientele based on class, professional and other criteria. For instance, some were famous with poets, lawyers, merchants, tories, and men fashionistas. 

The establishments that hosted higher members of social class always had sober debates. Usually, the subject of discussions revolved around religion, science, politics, and others. 

The debating in these coffeehouses made them nicknamed Penny universities. 

Interestingly, not all coffeehouses hosted orderly debates. Some, like those in low social class areas, were sometimes handouts for criminals. The conversations in such establishments were disorderly and sometimes resulted in rowdiness. 

Due to the presence of some of the known coffeehouses that attract high-profile people, they give rise to world-renowned personnel. Some figures that become popular due to these coffee joints are Isaac Newton, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Pepys, among others. 

Also, they paved the way for great institutions like the London Stock exchange. It started in 1698 as a result of gentlemen meeting in Jonathan’s Coffee House to set commodity and stock prices. Also, other big institutions trace their roots to these early cafes. 

Since people of all walks could access coffeehouses, especially men, they were the origin of advocacy for equality and republicanism. 

How was coffee in English coffeehouses 

Considering that coffee was a new beverage, the brew quality was not perfect. The beverage was disgusting and unpalatable, according to accounts of the time. 

Although the drinks were disgusting, the caffeine in coffee created an incredible thrill. This ensured people always visited the coffeehouses to have fun as they read newspapers and engaged in other talks. 

Unlike today where there are varieties of coffee brews, during the 17th C and 18th C, there were no options. The mode of brewing was not standardized; hence taste was not consistent. Some aspects like coffee pH and low acid coffee were unimportant. 

Some notable coffeehouses 

During the peak of the coffeehouses in Britain, some notable establishments cropped up. The most notable coffeehouses of the time include Jonathan’s Coffee House, Lloyd’s Coffee House, and Rawthmell’s Coffee. 

Other notable ones are Will’s, The Grecian, Turk’s Head, Button’s Coffee House, and Bedford Coffee House, to mention a few. 

The rise of early cafes led to the age of enlightenment and was the foundation of some of the current Institutions. 

Also, the current coffee shops like Starbucks, Dunkin, and Costa coffee trace their roots to this era. Although they are different, their establishment can be traced from the 17thC coffeehouses. 

The decline

The rise of coffeehouses in London and elsewhere in Britain saw a new era and transformation. However, King Charles II tried to suppress these establishments at one time. 

The king's reason was the coffeehouses as places of evil and could affect society negatively. However, the decision to ban coffeehouses through an edict met strong resistance. This led to the establishment of the King Charles balance act that restored the coffeehouses. 

Although coffeehouse culture was vibrant, around 1780, there was a significant decline. This resulted from the beginning of the industrial revolution and the rise of tea as a new beverage. 

By 1830 when the industrial revolution started, most coffeehouses were gone. However, great ideas discussed in the coffeehouses paved the way for the revolution.