The city of Istanbul introduced the first coffee house to the world, a citizen from Aleppo named Hakam and fellow named Shams from Damascus were the pioneers of the first coffee shop where they began to purvey coffee. Soon the word spread and holy places like Mecca also began serving coffee but the imam’s at that time put a stop to it between 1512 and 1524. Damascus had the first coffee shop opening and soon they spread till Cairo. A beautiful explanation was given by Jean Chardin who was a 17thcentury French Traveller. He described the Persian coffeehouses as
“People engage in conversation, for it is there that news is communicated and where those interested in politics criticize the government in all freedom and without being fearful, since the government does not heed what the people say. Innocent games… resembling checkers, hopscotch, and chess, are played. In addition, mollas, dervishes, and poets take turns telling stories in verse or in prose. The narrations by the mollas and the dervishes are moral lessons, like our sermons, but it is not considered scandalous not to pay attention to them. No one is forced to give up his game or his conversation because of it. A molla will stand up in the middle, or at one end of the qahveh-khaneh, and begin to preach in a loud voice, or a dervish enters all of a sudden, and chastises the assembled on the vanity of the world and its material goods. It often happens that two or three people talk at the same time, one on one side, the other on the opposite, and sometimes one will be a preacher and the other a storyteller.”
It was easy for coffee to spread in Middle East as Istanbul was the hub of coffee houses but it spread in Europe in the mid of 17th century outside the Ottoman Empire. The first coffee house to be recorded in Europe was in Venicein 1729 and it served as a temporary rest place between LaSerenissima and the Ottoman’s. England saw its first coffee house in 1652 in Oxford by man named Jacob who was a Jew. By the end of 1675 there were about 3000 coffee houses in England to entertain the growing crowd. Surprisingly, Paris saw the coffee house establishments in 1672 and soon it became a place for French Enlightenment; Voltaire, Rousseau and Denis Diderot. It was called Café Procope and was set up by Procopio Cuto, it is still debatable but this coffee house also was the basis of the first Encyclopedia. America on the other hand had its first coffee house in Boston, 1676.
In most European countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and others the term café is taken as a place were mainly coffee is served but with tarts, pies, cakes or buns. Many of them also serve very light snacks or meals with the coffee and their seating arrangement is mostly on the pavement. Coffee was brought to United States by the Italian immigrants and hence the time of Coffee houses became very popular. Some of the coffee houses from 1950’s still exist a few notable of them are New York’s Little Italy and Greenwhich Village, Boston’s North End and San Francisco’s North Beach.
Most coffee houses are based on the basic principle that was started in 1550’s, an indoor section with windows and an outdoor place mostly on the pavement with benches, seats and tables. These are also called Side walk café’s, they serve as public places for people of all walks to life to get coffee on their way to work or sit and enjoy the weather while reading the morning paper. Mostly café’s these days offer Wi-Fi for people to work or students to study.
Middle East has a slightly differ rent view on café’s (also known as maqha, or qahveh-khaneh) as it’s considered a social gathering place for men only due to religious views. Men often are seen having coffee or kehwa (an Arabic hot drink, mostly like tea) while talking on political happenings. Backgammon is also played along with TV to watch and other social activities. In Asia, the numbers of coffee houses have been growing tremendously, and international coffee houses like Starbucks, Caffe Ritazza and Gloria Jeans have been popular among these. They are places to sit with friends, have casual business meetings and sit-downs.
Café in this time and age serve more as a meeting place then a coffeehouse or an espresso bar. The most interesting part of the café though is the interior, some have comfortable sofa seating where you even have the liberty to curl up and read a book. And some have a more formal setting; hence the cafés are divided into categories. We will be discussing the categories and the interior in our next piece.
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