A coffeehouse, coffee shop, or café (sometimes spelled cafe) is an establishment which primarily serves hot coffee, related coffee beverages (e.g., café latte, cappuccino, espresso), tea, and other hot beverages. Some coffeehouses also serve cold beverages such as iced coffee and iced tea. Many cafés also serve some type of food, such as light snacks, muffins, or pastries. Coffeehouses range from owner-operated small businesses to large multinational corporations.
- Current usage
- United States
- Middle East
- Egypt and Ethiopia
- Espresso bar
- United Kingdom
In continental Europe, cafés often serve alcoholic beverages and light food, but elsewhere the term "café" may also refer to a tea room, "greasy spoon" (a small and inexpensive restaurant, colloquially called a "caff"), transport café, or other casual eating and drinking place. A coffeehouse may share some of the same characteristics of a bar or restaurant, but it is different from a cafeteria. Many coffee houses in the Middle East and in West Asian immigrant districts in the Western world offer shisha (nargile in Greek and Turkish), flavored tobacco smoked through a hookah. Espresso bars are a type of coffeehouse that specializes in serving espresso and espresso-based drinks.
From a cultural standpoint, coffeehouses largely serve as centers of social interaction: the coffeehouse provides patrons with a place to congregate, talk, read, write, entertain one another, or pass the time, whether individually or in small groups. Since the development of Wi-Fi, coffeehouses with this capability have also become places for patrons to access the Internet on their laptops and tablet computers. A coffeehouse can serve as an informal club for its regular members. As early as the 1950s Beatnik era and the 1960s folk music scene, coffeehouses have hosted singer-songwriter performances, typically in the evening.
Coffeehouses in Mecca became a concern as places for political gatherings to the imams, who banned them, as well as the drink, for Muslims between 1512 and 1524. In 1530, the first coffeehouse was opened in Damascus and not long after there were many coffeehouses in Cairo.
The Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Peçevi reports in his writings (1642–49) about the opening of the first coffeehouse in Istanbul:
Until the year 962 , in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffee-houses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hakam from Aleppo and a wag called Shams from Damascus came to the city; they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee.
Various legends involving the introduction of coffee to Istanbul at a "Kiva Han" in the late 15th century circulate in culinary tradition, but with no documentation.
The 17th-century French traveler and writer Jean Chardin gave a lively description of the Persian coffeehouse scene:
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.
The most common English spelling, café, is the French, Portuguese and Spanish spelling, and was adopted by English-speaking countries in the late 19th century. As English generally makes little use of diacritical marks, anglicisation includes a tendency to omit them and to place the onus on the readers to remember how it is pronounced, without being given the accents. Thus the spelling cafe has become very common in English-language usage throughout the world, especially for the less formal, i.e. "greasy spoon" variety (although orthographic prescriptivists often disapprove of it). The Italian spelling, caffè, is also sometimes used in English. In southern England, especially around London in the 1950s, the French pronunciation was often facetiously altered to /ˈkæf/ and spelt caff.
The English words coffee and café both descend from the Italian word for coffee, caffè—first attested as caveé in Venice in 1570— and in turn derived from the Arabic qahuwa (قهوة). The Arabic term qahuwa originally referred to a type of wine but after the wine ban by Mohammed, the name was transferred to coffee because of the similar rousing effect it induced. The European awareness of coffee (the plant, its seeds, and the beverage made from the seeds) came through Europeans' contact with Turkey, likely via Venetian-Ottoman trade relations.
The translingual word root /kafe/ appears in many European languages with various naturalized spellings, including; Portuguese, Spanish, and French (café); German (Kaffee); Polish (kawa); Ukrainian (кава, 'kava'); and others.
In the 17th century, coffee appeared for the first time in Europe outside the Ottoman Empire, and coffeehouses were established and quickly became popular. The first coffeehouses appeared in Venice in 1629, due to the traffic between La Serenissima and the Ottomans; the very first one is recorded in 1645. The first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1652 by a Jewish man named Jacob at the Angel in the parish of St Peter in the East. A building on the same site now houses a cafe-bar called The Grand Cafe. Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is also still in existence today. The first coffeehouse in London was opened in 1652 in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill. The proprietor was Pasqua Rosée, the servant of a trader in Turkish goods named Daniel Edwards, who imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill.
From 1670 to 1685, the number of London coffee-houses began to multiply, and also began to gain political importance due to their popularity as places of debate. By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England. Pasqua Rosée also established the first coffeehouse in Paris in 1672 and held a city-wide coffee monopoly until Procopio Cutò opened the Café Procope in 1686. This coffeehouse still exists today and was a major meeting place of the French Enlightenment; Voltaire, Rousseau, and Denis Diderot frequented it, and it is arguably the birthplace of the Encyclopédie, the first modern encyclopedia. In 1667, Kara Hamie, a former Ottoman Janissary from Constantinople, opened the first coffeeshop in Bucharest (then the capital of the Principality of Wallachia), in the center of the city, where today lies the main building of the National Bank of Romania. America had its first coffeehouse in Boston, in 1676.
The first cafeteria in Vienna was founded in 1683 by a Ukrainian resident, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who was also the first to serve coffee with milk. There is a statue of Kulczycki on a street also named after him. However the whole culture of drinking coffee was itself widespread in the country in the second half of the 18th century. The first registered coffee house in Vienna was founded by an Armenian merchant named Johannes Theodat (also known as Johannes Diodato) in 1685. Fifteen years later, four other Armenians owned coffeehouses and had the privilege to serve coffee.
Though Charles II later tried to suppress the London coffeehouses as "places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers", the public flocked to them. For several decades following the Restoration, the Wits gathered around John Dryden at Will's Coffee House, in Russell Street, Covent Garden. The coffee houses were great social levellers, open to all men and indifferent to social status, and as a result associated with equality and republicanism.
More generally, coffee houses became meeting places where business could be carried on, news exchanged and the London Gazette (government announcements) read. Lloyd's of London had its origins in a coffeehouse run by Edward Lloyd, where underwriters of ship insurance met to do business. By 1739, there were 551 coffeehouses in London; each attracted a particular clientele divided by occupation or attitude, such as Tories and Whigs, wits and stockjobbers, merchants and lawyers, booksellers and authors, men of fashion or the "cits" of the old city center. According to one French visitor, Antoine François Prévost, coffeehouses, "where you have the right to read all the papers for and against the government," were the "seats of English liberty."
The banning of women from coffeehouses was not universal, but does appear to have been common in Europe. In Germany, women frequented them, but in England and France they were banned. Émilie du Châtelet purportedly wore drag to gain entrance to a coffeehouse in Paris. In a well-known engraving of a Parisian café of c. 1700, the gentlemen hang their hats on pegs and sit at long communal tables strewn with papers and writing implements. Coffeepots are ranged at an open fire, with a hanging cauldron of boiling water. The only woman present presides, separated in a canopied booth, from which she serves coffee in tall cups.
The traditional tale of the origins of the Viennese café begins with the mysterious sacks of green beans left behind when the Turks were defeated in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. All the sacks of coffee were granted to the victorious Polish king Jan III Sobieski, who in turn gave them to one of his officers, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki. Kulczycki began the first coffeehouse in Vienna with the hoard. However, it is now widely accepted that the first coffeehouse was actually opened by an Armenian merchant named Johannes Diodato (Asdvadzadur).
In London, coffeehouses preceded the club of the mid-18th century, European countries. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, a café (with the acute accent) is similar to those in other European countries, while a cafe (without acute accent, and often pronounced "caff") is more likely to be a greasy spoon-style eating place, serving mainly fried food, in particular breakfast dishes. which skimmed away some of the more aristocratic clientele. Jonathan's Coffee-House in 1698 saw the listing of stock and commodity prices that evolved into the London Stock Exchange. Lloyd's Coffee House provided the venue for merchants and shippers to discuss insurance deals, leading to the establishment of Lloyd's of London insurance market, the Lloyd's Register classification society, and other related businesses. Auctions in salesrooms attached to coffeehouses provided the start for the great auction houses of Sotheby's and Christie's.
During the 18th century, the oldest extant coffee houses in Italy were established: Caffè Florian in Venice, Antico Caffè Greco in Rome, Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua, Caffè dell'Ussero in Pisa and Caffè Fiorio in Turin. In Victorian England, the temperance movement set up coffeehouses for the working classes, as a place of relaxation free of alcohol, an alternative to the public house (pub).
In 18th century, Dublin coffeehouses functioned as early reading centers and the emergence of circulation and subscription libraries which provided greater print access for the public. Coffeehouses were a culture symbol where different worlds came together to discuss topics of the newspapers and pamphlets. Most coffeehouses during the Eighteenth Century were equipped with their own printing presses or resided by book shops which most would later merge with for better business. As coffeehouses grew into public reading centers, circulating libraries in Dublin expanded, resembling public libraries since they lent books. Some public libraries fees were still too high for the literate class, but book-borrowing from circulating libraries was more affordable. Circulating library keepers would keep fees low because they were also printers, publishers, and newspaper proprietors. One of the first circulating libraries was established by James Hoey in 1735. More competition grew and even more people wanting multiple books at a time. Women were not allowed in the coffeehouses so circulating libraries would target them by carrying books tailored to female readers. Another benefit for circulating libraries was that most were more flexible with their loan terms and rates which increased circulation of books. It was cheaper to have a yearly subscription compared to purchasing books at that time. Having circulating libraries increased people's urge to read more since they could afford the access to books. In the 19th and 20th century, coffeehouses were commonly meeting point for writers and artists, across Europe.
In most European countries, such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, and others, the term café means a restaurant primarily serving coffee, as well as pastries such as cakes, tarts, pies, Danish pastries, or buns. Many cafés also serve light meals such as sandwiches. European cafés often have tables on the pavement (sidewalk) as well as indoors. Some cafés also serve alcoholic beverages (e.g., wine), particularly in Southern Europe.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, a café is the equivalent of a bar, and also sells alcoholic beverages. In the Netherlands a koffiehuis serves coffee, while a coffee shop (using the English term) sells soft drugs (cannabis and hashish) and is generally not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages. In France, most cafés serve as lunch restaurants in the day, and bars in the evening. They generally do not have pastries except during mornings, where a croissant or pain au chocolat can be purchased with breakfast coffee. In Italy, cafés are similar to those found in France and known as bar. They typically serve a variety of espresso coffee, cakes and alcoholic drinks. Bars in city centres usually have different prices for consumption at the bar and consumption at a table.
Coffee shops in the United States arose from the espresso- and pastry-centered Italian coffeehouses of the Italian American immigrant communities in the major U.S. cities, notably New York City's Little Italy and Greenwich Village, Boston's North End, and San Francisco's North Beach. From the late 1950s onward, coffeehouses also served as a venue for entertainment, most commonly folk performers during the American folk music revival. This was likely due to the ease at accommodating in a small space a lone performer accompanying himself or herself with only a guitar. Both Greenwich Village and North Beach became major haunts of the Beats, who were highly identified with these coffeehouses.
As the youth culture of the 1960s evolved, non-Italians consciously copied these coffeehouses. The political nature of much of 1960s folk music made the music a natural tie-in with coffeehouses with their association with political action. A number of well known performers like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan began their careers performing in coffeehouses. Blues singer Lightnin' Hopkins bemoaned his woman's inattentiveness to her domestic situation due to her overindulgence in coffeehouse socializing in his 1969 song "Coffeehouse Blues". Starting in 1967 with the opening of the historic Last Exit on Brooklyn coffeehouse, Seattle became known for its thriving countercultural coffeehouse scene; the Starbucks chain later standardized and mainstreamed this espresso bar model.
From the 1960s through the mid-1980s, churches and individuals in the United States used the coffeehouse concept for outreach. They were often storefronts and had names like The Lost Coin (Greenwich Village), The Gathering Place (Riverside, CA), Catacomb Chapel (New York City), and Jesus For You (Buffalo, NY). Christian music (often guitar-based) was performed, coffee and food was provided, and Bible studies were convened as people of varying backgrounds gathered in a casual setting that was purposefully different than the traditional church. An out-of-print book, published by the ministry of David Wilkerson, titled, A Coffeehouse Manual, served as a guide for Christian coffeehouses, including a list of name suggestions for coffeehouses.
In general, prior to about 1990, true coffeehouses were little known in most American cities, apart from those located on or near college campuses, or in districts associated with writers, artists, or the counterculture. During this time the word "coffeeshop" usually denoted family-style restaurants that served full meals, and of whose revenue coffee represented only a small portion. More recently that usage of the word has waned and now "coffeeshop" often refers to a true coffeehouse.
Cafés may have an outdoor section (terrace, pavement or sidewalk café) with seats, tables and parasols. This is especially the case with European cafés. Cafés offer a more open public space compared to many of the traditional pubs they have replaced, which were more male dominated with a focus on drinking alcohol.
One of the original uses of the café, as a place for information exchange and communication, was reintroduced in the 1990s with the Internet café or Hotspot (Wi-Fi). The spread of modern-style cafés to urban and rural areas went hand-in-hand with the rising use of mobile computers. Computers and Internet access in a contemporary-styled venue help to create a youthful, modern place, compared to the traditional pubs or old-fashioned diners that they replaced.
In the Middle East, the coffeehouse (Arabic: مقهى maqha; Persian: قهوه خانه qahveh-khaneh; Turkish: kahvehane or kırâthane) serves as an important social gathering place for men. Men assemble in coffeehouses to drink coffee (usually Arabic coffee) and tea. In addition, men go there to listen to music, read books, play chess and backgammon, watch TV and enjoy other social activities around the Arab world and in Turkey. Hookah (shisha) is traditionally served as well.
Coffeehouses in Egypt are colloquially called 'ahwah /ʔhwa/, which is the dialectal pronunciation of قَهْوة qahwah (literally "coffee") (See also Arabic phonology#Local variations) Also commonly served in 'ahwah are tea (shāy) and herbal teas, especially the highly popular hibiscus blend (Egyptian Arabic: karkadeh or ennab). The first 'ahwah opened around the 1850s and were originally patronized mostly by older people, with youths frequenting but not always ordering. There were associated by the 1920s with clubs (Cairo), bursa (Alexandria) and gharza (rural inns). In the early 20th century, some of them became crucial venues for political and social debates.
In China, an abundance of recently started domestic coffeehouse chains may be seen accommodating business people for conspicuous consumption, with coffee prices sometimes even higher than in the West.
In India, coffee culture has expanded in the past twenty years. Chains like Indian Coffee House, Café Coffee Day, Barista Lavazza have become very popular. Cafes are considered good venues to conduct office meetings and for friends to meet.
In Malaysia and Singapore, traditional breakfast and coffee shops are called kopi tiam. The word is a portmanteau of the Malay word for coffee (as borrowed and altered from English) and the Hokkien dialect word for shop (店; POJ: tiàm). Menus typically feature simple offerings: a variety of foods based on egg, toast, and coconut jam, plus coffee, tea, and Milo, a malted chocolate drink which is extremely popular in Southeast Asia and Australasia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia.
Singapore also has coffeeshops known as cafes and in the past few years, there has a been a rise in cafe culture with urbanites seeking out specialty coffees. Even with popular joints such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean, the millennials in particular sought for gourmet coffees as well as the relaxing and cosy ambience amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Moreover, cafes have also changed the social scenes of Singapore. Instead of crowding at shopping malls, the youngsters could now hang out at cafes.
In the Philippines, coffeeshops chains like Starbucks became prevalent in upper and middle class professionals especially in Makati. However, Carinderias also serve coffee alongside viands. Events such as "Kapihan" often officiated at bakeshops and restaurants that also served coffee for breakfast and merienda.
In Australia, coffeeshops are generally called cafés. Since the post-World War II influx of Italian immigrants introduced espresso coffee machines to Australia in the 1950s, there has been a steady rise in café culture. The past decade has seen a rapid rise in demand for locally (or on-site)-roasted specialty coffee, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, with the "flat white" remaining a popular coffee drink.
Egypt and Ethiopia
In Cairo, the capital of Egypt, most cafés have shisha (waterpipe). Most Egyptians indulge in the habit of smoking shisha while hanging out at the café, watching a match, studying, or even sometimes finishing some work. In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, independent coffeehouses that struggled prior to 1991 have become popular with young professionals who do not have time for traditional coffee roasting at home. One establishment which has become well-known is the Tomoca coffee shop, which opened in 1953.
The espresso bar is a type of coffeehouse that specializes in coffee beverages made from espresso. Originating in Italy, the espresso bar has spread throughout the world in various forms. Prime examples that are internationally known are Starbucks Coffee, based in Seattle, Washington, U.S., and Costa Coffee, based in Dunstable, UK, (the first and second largest coffeehouse chains respectively), although the espresso bar exists in some form throughout much of the world.
The espresso bar is typically centered around a long counter with a high-yield espresso machine (usually bean to cup machines, automatic or semiautomatic pump-type machine, although occasionally a manually operated lever-and-piston system) and a display case containing pastries and occasionally savory items such as sandwiches. In the traditional Italian bar, customers either order at the bar and consume their beverages standing or, if they wish to sit down and be served, are usually charged a higher price. In some bars there is an additional charge for drinks served at an outside table. In other countries, especially the United States, seating areas for customers to relax and work are provided free of charge. Some espresso bars also sell coffee paraphernalia, candy, and even music. North American espresso bars were also at the forefront of widespread adoption of public WiFi access points to provide Internet services to people doing work on laptop computers on the premises.
The offerings at the typical espresso bar are generally quite Italianate in inspiration; biscotti, cannoli and pizzelle are a common traditional accompaniment to a caffe latte or cappuccino. Some upscale espresso bars even offer alcoholic beverages such as grappa and sambuca. Nevertheless, typical pastries are not always strictly Italianate and common additions include scones, muffins, croissants, and even doughnuts. There is usually a large selection of teas as well, and the North American espresso bar culture is responsible for the popularization of the Indian spiced tea drink masala chai. Iced drinks are also popular in some countries, including both iced tea and iced coffee as well as blended drinks such as Starbucks' Frappucino.
A worker in an espresso bar is referred to as a barista. The barista is a skilled position that requires familiarity with the drinks being made (often very elaborate, especially in North American-style espresso bars), a reasonable facility with some rather esoteric equipment as well as the usual customer service skills.
Haunts for teenagers in particular, Italian-run espresso bars and their formica-topped tables were a feature of 1950s Soho that provided a backdrop as well as a title for Cliff Richard's 1960 film Expresso Bongo. The first was The Moka in Frith Street, opened by Gina Lollobrigida in 1953. With their "exotic Gaggia coffee machine[s],...Coke, Pepsi, weak frothy coffee and...Suncrush orange fountain[s]" they spread to other urban centres during the 1960s, providing cheap, warm places for young people to congregate and an ambience far removed from the global coffee bar standard which would be established in the final decades of the century by chains such as Starbucks and Pret a Manger. The first coffee house in England was The Angel, which opened in Oxford in 1650.