The History of Café’s as Cultural Centers


It is often easy to think of cafes or coffee shops as that stop off you make on the way to work for your daily cappuccino. But coffee culture goes so much deeper than that. Over the years, cafes have been somewhat of a microcosm for the development of society.

Cafes are usually centered around a few components, namely the sale of coffee and the social aspect. The coffee industry has always been a complicated web that dangles cultural, social and economic entities of societies that along with being a public sanctuary. 

Although cafe’s first popped up in the US in the mid-1960, this industry has a much longer history than Starbucks, in fact, the very first coffee shop as established in Istanbul in 1334. 

Café’s rise to prominence in Europe in the 17th century where people from the working class, intellectuals, writers, and poets would gather. It was somewhat of a retreat and allowed men and women to exchange ideas and philosophy while for hours. It is no wonder this age became known as the age of Enlightenment.

These days, cafes are frequented by everyone, including he upper echelons of society, however back then those in higher standing avoided cafes as it was a sign of lower status. For his reason, employees could gather without fear of being overheard by their superior and allowed seeds of rebellion and change to be planted within the walls of the coffee houses. 

In the mid-20th century, several cafes began to pop up in Bogota, Columbia. Similar to the coffee culture in London, it was a place of meeting for intellectuals’ activists and writers to meet and socialize. 

France, too, is an example of where social and political thought thrived within cafes. In the 1900s Parisian café’s drew in men the likes of Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In America, coffee houses were the places where protests against the Vietnam War were formed, a process nicknames “G.I Cafes”.  

These days, the focus has slightly shifted these days. With the modernizing methods of sourcing quality beans and perfecting methods of production, the modern café is more concerned about the quality of the coffee itself.

Yet, although the gravity of café culture may have lessened, they are still incubators for culture, for socializing, and for debate.

Source photo: by Daan Evers on Unsplash

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