Europe’s Coffeehouse Culture

Estimated reading time 2 min

Long before there was Starbucks, Europe had an established coffee culture.  Coffeehouses in Europe date back to the 14th century in Turkey and then spread throughout Europe via Italian merchants and traders from Venice in the 17th century.    Friends met at coffeehouses to socialize gossip and play cards.  Later coffee houses also quickly became meeting places for intellectuals, writers and artists to discuss their work and politics giving rise to the café culture.

Unlike today’s U.S. coffee culture where the beverage is consumed mostly as fuel for the workday, coffee in Europe is still chiefly approached as a social experience.  Compare the social atmosphere of a European coffeehouse with modern U.S. coffee shops where individuals sit solo studying or staring into laptops.   When you see people interacting in U.S. coffee shops it’s often because business is being conducted as opposed to a group of friends leisurely chatting.

Contrast strolling through the streets of any European city to U.S. cities where everyone seems to have a cup of coffee in hand as they stride along.     There is even a difference in how each consumes their coffee.  Instead of being served coffee to go in a paper cup, Europeans consume their beverage in a bar or café sipping from a proper ceramic or china cup.

In the end, the consumption of coffee is a lifestyle in Europe and a routine in the United States.  Rather than a jolt of energy Europeans ironically enough use coffee as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy life a little.

European Coffee Trivia

  • Italians only drink cappuccinos in the morning, ordering one in the afternoon or evening marks you as a tourist
  • In 15th century Turkey, there was a law that a woman could divorce a man if he didn’t provide enough coffee to last her through the day
  • Decaf coffee was first produced in Germany
  • Seventeenth century Londoners augmented their coffee with butter, ale or mustard
  • Traditionally in France coffee is served after dessert, not with dessert
  • Coffeehouses in 18th century England were called ‘penny universities’ as it cost a penny to enter.   Patrons had access not only to coffee, but sometimes lectures, pamphlets and runners who went to various coffeehouses announcing the news.

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