Coffee houses


  • Intro

    While today, tea is the drink most associated with the English, from the mid 1600s until the late 1700s hot chocolate and coffee were the more popular drinks. Newly imported from Africa and South America, the drinks became fashionable novelties in the 1660s. Coffee houses were hubs of social activity, particularly popular with businessmen, politicians, stock market traders and intellectuals. In this poem of 1665, a variety of characters sit within a coffee house, the poet describing the diversity of the scene:

    'Here you’re not thrust into a Box

    As Taverns do to catch the Fox

    But as from the top of Paul’s high steeple,

    The whole City’s viewed, even so all people

    May be seen.’



  • Transcript

    The Character of a Coffee-House


    A Coffee-house, the learned hold 

    It is a place where Coffee's sold; 

    This derivation cannot fail us, 

    For where Ale's vended, that's an Ale-house.

    This being granted to be true, 

    'Tis meet that next the Signs we shew 

    Both where and how to find this house 

    Where men such cordial broth carowse. 

    And if Culpepper woon some glory

    In turning the Dispensatory 

    From Latin into English; 

    then Why should not all good English men 

    Give him much thanks who shews a cure 

    For all diseases men endure? 



    As you along the streets do trudge, 

    To take the pains you must not grudge, 

    To view the Posts or Broomsticks where 

    The Signs of Liquors hanged are. 

    And if you see the great Morat 

    With Shash on's head instead of hat, 

    Or any Sultan in his dress, 

    Or picture of a Sultaness, 

    Or John's admir'd curled pate, 

    Or th' great Mogul in's Chair of State, 

    Or Constantine the Grecian, 

    Who fourteen years was th' onely man 

    That made Coffee for th' great Bashaw, 

    Although the man he never saw; 

    Or if you see a Coffee-cup 

    Fil'd from a Turkish pot, hung up 

    Within the clouds, and round it 

    Pipes, Wax Candles, Stoppers, these are types 

    And certain signs (with many more Would be too long to write them 'ore,) 

    Which plainly do Spectators tell 

    That in that house they Coffee sell. 

    Some wiser than the rest (no doubt,) 

    Say they can by the smell find't out; 

    In at a door (say they,) but thrust 

    Your Nose, and if you scent burnt Crust, 

    Be sure there's Coffee sold that's good, 

    For so by most 'tis understood. 

    Now being enter'd, there's no needing 

    Of complements or gentile breeding, 

    For you may seat you any where, 

    There's no respect of persons there; 

    Then comes the Coffee-man to greet you, 

    With welcome Sir, let me entreat you, 

    To tell me what you'l please to have, 

    For I'm your humble, humble slave; 

    But if you ask, what good does Coffee?

    He'l answer, Sir, don't think I scoff yee, 

    If I affirm there's no disease 

    Men have that drink it but find ease. 



    Look, there's a man who takes the steem 

    In at his Nose, has an extreme 

    Worm in his pate, and giddiness, 

    Ask him and he will say no less. 

    There sitteth one whose 

    Droptick belly Was hard as flint, now's soft as jelly. 

    There stands another holds his head 'Ore th' Coffee-pot, was almost dead 

    Even now with Rhume; ask him hee'l say 

    That all his Rhum's now past away. 

    See, there's a man sits now demure 

    And sober, was within this hour 

    Quite drunk, and comes here frequently, 

    For 'tis his daily Malady, More, it has such reviving power 

    'Twill keep a man awake an houre, 

    Nay, make his eyes wide open stare 

    Both Sermon time and all the prayer. 

    Sir, should I tell you all the rest 

    O' th' cures 't has done, two hours at least 

    In numb'ring them I needs must spend, 

    Scarce able then to make an end. 

    Besides these vertues that's therein. 

    For any kind of Medicine, 

    The Commonwealth-Kingdom I'd say, 

    Has mighty reason for to pray 

    That still Arabia may produce

    Enough of Berry for it's use: 

    For't has such strange magnetick force, 

    That it draws after't great concourse 

    Of all degrees of persons, even 

    From high to low, from morn till even; 

    Especially the sober Party, 

    And News-mongers do drink't most hearty 

    Here you'r not thrust into a 

    Box As Taverns do to catch the 

    Fox, But as from th' top of Pauls high steeple, 

    Th' whole City's view'd, even so all people 

    May here be seen; no secrets are 

    At th' Court for Peace, or th' Camp for War, 

    But straight they'r here disclos'd and known; 

    Men in this Age so wise are grown. 

    Now (Sir) what profit may accrew 

    By this, to all good men, judge you. 

    With that he's loudly call'd upon 

    For Coffee, and then whip he's gone.

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