18 Jan 2011


The coffee shop is not a mere meeting place for lovers, friends or business partners. Consuming over-priced caffeine mixtures (as delicious as they may be!) is also an excuse to dress up. The coffee shop is a mini show-room for the latest fashion. A vogue place.The first coffee shops originated in Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo. Istanbul was to be the first European city to open this institution – Venice following in its footsteps in 1647. Toward the end of the 18th century beer was replaced by coffee as a beverage consumed from breakfast to dinner. This meant that the drowsiness associated with beer was replaced by a focused soberness.

At first a venue for burlesque shows, the coffee shop soon became popular with scholars and artists. Picasso, among other artists residing in Paris at the time, was known to escape his unheated studio and cramped apartment for the warmth of a Café. Artists would discuss art or sketch. Coffee thus became associated with education.

Even today, coffee shops are venues for students or academics. Books are piled high on tables. Students sit for hours highlighting and writing. Some sit in the corner reading or learning. Coffee shops popularised print media. Bespectacled businessmen read newspapers. Elegant women leaf through fashion magazines.

Coffee shops have become ambassadors for old-fashioned things such as letter writing, reading and discourse even though most modern coffee houses, such as Starbucks, have now lost their traditional and cultural meaning. But some remnants of the old coffee-culture still exist. Maybe you will see someone doodling on a napkin on your next visit?