The Remarkable Influence Of Coffee On The World
This feature is brought to you by Joe Black Coffee, Roasting coffee for over 50 years and delivering coffee direct to your door.
The humble coffee bean has played witness to some of the most historic moments in modern history. If it could write a biography, it would be regarded as one of the most amazing stories ever told…….of course not having fingers, opposable thumbs or a brain makes this highly unlikely, so with the best will in the world and hoping to do justice to its remarkable story, here at Joe Black Coffee we’ve compiled some of coffee’s cultural highlights and how our favourite little bean has helped shape culture, arts and the world.
Where would we be without coffee houses?
The very first European coffee house opened in Venice in 1629. Before their introduction people tended to met and socialise in pubs. Fuelled by the creative flair of alcohol, ideas were discussed, approved and heartily agreed upon; before waking the next morning to wonder what on earth had been said. Alcohol and brilliance are not always the best of friends.
Coffee houses provided a sober alternative for artists, the working class, poets, musicians, writers and those with political aspirations to rub shoulders with one another. They became places for intellectual debate and provoked radical ideas that attracted the beady eyes of the establishment. So much so that King Charles II tried to ban coffee houses in London during 1675. It didn’t work.
The plotting continued and coffee houses became such a hotbed of political discussion that both the French, and later the American Revolutions were planned within the confines of these new coffee shops.
Angry with the English for the taxation of tea from abroad, Americans destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent from Britain at the now infamous Boston Tea Party, widely regarded as the catalyst for the revolution. So embittered were the Americans towards the English and their sipping of tea that they spurned the drink and turned their loyalty towards coffee. John Adams, one of the founding fathers even proclaimed that although he loved tea, he would have to learn to embrace coffee as tea had become so very unpatriotic.
Caffeine fuelled compositions
Bach, Beethoven and Schubert were all inspired by coffee for a variety of reasons. Bach regularly directed musical productions at Zimmermans coffee house in Leipzig, Germany between 1729 – 1739. So enamored was he with coffee that he composed a short comic opera (arguably written for the local audience) called the Coffee Cantana. We can only assume that his ability to name his works didn’t quite match the flamboyance of his music.
Anyway, the story goes that there’s a vivacious woman called Aria who loves coffee. Her father, behaving like an overprotective ogre is of course against any form of stimulation for his beloved daughter, and bans her from drinking coffee. After much arguing and high pitched singing, the story eventually plays out when he concedes by allowing her 3 cups a day…….that’s written into her marriage contract. And who said romance was dead?
Meanwhile over in Venic, Schubert and Beethoven were both regular visitors to Bognors Coffee House in Singerstrasse. Although the two never met, Schubert served as one of Beethoven’s pallbearers at his funeral. Too afraid to approach is idol, Schubert watched the forlorn figure of Beethoven from afar with the temperament that only a troubled artist can endure.
While you may think that the cacophony of a coffee shop isn’t conducive to writing a masterpiece, rest assured Beethoven was deaf by this time. The clinking of spoons didn’t disrupt his Ninth Symphony.
“I have already given Haslinger the second portion of the Winterreise. It is all over with my excursion to Gratz this year, for my monetary, like the weather prospects, are utterly gloomy and unfavourable. I accept with pleasure the invitation to Dr Menz, as I should be very glad to hear Baron Schonstein sing. On Saturday afternoon you can meet me at Bogner’s Coffee House, Singerstrasse, between four and five o’clock”
Within a short period of time after its introduction to Europe and the United States, coffee had bared witness to two revolutions, some of classical music’s greatest works, overturned the wishes of a King and within the confines of its cosy shops observed the formation of the London & New York Stock Exchanges.
Balzac And The Black Stuff
Balzac was a French playwright and novelist most famous for his work La Comedie Humaine, a panoramic portrait of all aspects of society. He is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature and his works inspired Edgar Allen Poe, Proust and Dickens himself.
While certainly not prolific, his work ethich is peerless. He would fastidioulsy go over his writings making inumerable changes. His routine was to take a nap before midnight before working for hours at an end. Once he claimed to work 48 hours straight. How did he achieve this feat of literary endurance? He drank lots of coffee!
Apparently Balzac would drink up to 30 cups of black coffee a day, ensuring that his early morning synapsis were not only firing, but twitching like a headless chicken impaled on an electric fence. Like so many of his artistic contemporaries, he wrote about his love (shall we say addiction?) of coffee in “The Pleasure & Pain Of Coffee”
“When you have produced the finest grind with the least water possible, you double the dose by drinking two cups at a time; particularly vigorous constitutions can tolerate three cups. In this manner one can continue working for several more days.”
Ever since a hungry Ethiopian goat first discovered coffee, its popularity has spread to all corners of the world, ensuring it’s an intrinsic part of life for many of us around the world. Whether it’s growing, farming, brewing, drinking or fuelling our creative prowess, coffee has had quite a remarkable journey. If this continues we’ll soon be heralding the first coffee planted on Martian soil…….by a goat.
Nick Huxsted writes and works for Joe Black Coffee. Roasting coffee for over 50 years and delivering coffee direct to your door.