The Coffee Shop was not Invented in Seattle

As a coffee lover, I was intrique by a blog written yesterday by 19th Century Historical Tidbits on the history of coffee shops. I was surprised to learn that coffee shops have existed for 200 years or more and were not started in Seattle. Seattle can claim, however, to have started the modern day revival of the coffee shops.

The 19th Century Historical Tidbits provides quotes from the book, “Coffee: It’s History, Cultivation, and Uses.” The book was written in 1982 by Robert Hewitt. One of these quotes describes the Tontine Coffee-House in the 1820’s. The blog also contained an interesting quote of people enjoying their coffee purchased from street coffee-stands in New York. Hewitt even attributes sharing a cup of coffee on the street with a diverse group of coffee drinkers as contributing to making people sociable. Finally, the blogs quotes Hewitt’s comments about the healthy attributes of coffee.

I was unable to provide a link to the blog, so I have copied it (it is short and concise) below for you to read.

I am married to a non-coffee drinker. Steve doesn’t like the taste of coffee and doesn’t comprehend the ‘social’ nature of coffee drinking. His parents both were regular coffee drinkers, but did not pass on that habit. I was destined to be a coffee lover. My grandmother give me coffee heavily laced with milk and sugar as a toddler. Iced coffee was a regular summertime drink in our home. I love coffee hot or iced (but never lukewarm). It is satisfying to me to know that I am helping to carry on a long-standing American tradition.

Coffee (by 19th Century Historic Tidbits)

Posted: 28 Jun 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Coffee is an essential part of many people’s lives these days. In the 19th century it also had it’s place. In 1872 a book “Coffee: It’s History, Cultivation, and Uses” by Robert Hewitt.

In the preface he writes:
If occasion for enthusiasm is found in discussing the merits of roasted pig, surely very much stronger is the argument in behalf of roasted Coffee.

Another interesting comments:
The European, the Creole, the New Englander, the men of the West and the far-off Orient, all visit the coffee-stands. While partaking there is for the instant a touch of nature which makes mankind akin, for it is observable that the recipients of the morning cup of pure Java are sociable. Artificial distinctions are discarded in the very act of drinking in the crowded market, or even standing in the open street. But it is the very thing, this mixture of the rude and the refined, that adds zest to the “open-air cup of coffee.” The merry twinkle of the eye of the attendant quadroon, her quiet manners, her attentive observance of the wants and tastes of the various customers, the very polish of the tall copper kettle, the jet of steam, the whiteness of the crockery, constitute associations that, once realized, one never forgets, and justly places coffee among the most grateful, innocent, and healthful things that we Americans include among the necessaries of life.

The coffee-houses of New York are intimately associated with the history of the city.

* * *
“In 1826 and 1827 the Tontine Coffee-House was in the hands of John Morse, who had formerly kept the old StageHouse at the corner of Church and Crown streets, New Haven. He turned the entire house into a tavern, and it so remained for several years. The first floor was in one room, running the full length of the house, and fronting Wall street. At the back of the room, extending nearly its whole length, was the old-fashioned bar. Jutting out from the counter were curious arms of brass, supporting the thick, round, and mast-like timber on which the heavy dealers leaned while ordering refreshments. About the room were numerous small tables, and after supper, in fair weather, around the tables could be seen many of the wealthy city men, diminishing the contents of their pewter mugs, or planning, amid the curling smoke in the room, their operations for the next day. Morse was not successful in the Tontine, and was finally sold out for the benefit of ‘whom it might concern.’

* * *
Taken in moderation, especially if combined with sugar and milk, coffee is unquestionably the most wholesome beverage known. In a medical point of view, it has been regarded as a cerebral stimulant and anti-soporific, and an antidote to opium. As a medicine, it should be strong, and taken lukewarm.
Coffee, when taken early in the morning before rising, sometimes alleviates an attack of asthma or coughing, and thus proves of great service to many sufferers. Still it must not be forgotten that it is a stimulant, and if taken too strong, or in too great quantities, may give rise to nervous complaints; and although for a time an aid to digestion.
* * *

Author: Susan Elizabeth Ball

Author of the Christian fiction series Restored Hearts. Book 1, Restorations, was published in October 2010 and Book 2, Reconciliations, in October 2011.

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