To support my investigation into the role of cafes in society today I’ve been looking into their role in the past too. When introducing my research I often point the long history that coffee houses have had in the UK, and how their role has changed and evolved over the centuries.
I first started to learn about the first coffee houses in the UK some time ago when I heard a podcast from the BBC, which explored the boom in coffee shops both in the present day and in the 17th century. It was here I heard about the research of Dr Matthew Green, a historian specialising in the history of London’s coffee houses.
While I’m more than happy to delve into the history books and archives to find out about the development of coffee houses in London, Dr Green offers another option – the Coffee House tour). This weekend I went to London to go on the tour which explores the locations of the city’s first coffee houses, and some of the characters that were instrumental in making it happen. The tour offers more than usual with actors and music included, as well as the chance to sample the ‘bitter Mohammedan gruel’, the first type of coffee consumed in the city’s coffee houses.
We visited the site of the first coffee house in London, an important location in the UK’s coffee history, learnt about the role of Pasqua Rosee, and the role that coffee houses played in 17th and 18th century London, at the heart of the city.
If you’d rather explore the area at your own pace, you can also download the tour.You can find an interactive map of coffee houses in London in the 17th and 18th centuries here, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the history of London’s coffee houses, then have a look at:
- The Lost World of the London Coffee House
- The Story of the Coffee House Part 1
- The Story of the Coffee House Part 2
And of course on while in London we did also make a quick visit to one of my favourite coffee shops in the centre of London – Free State Coffee,