Today, nearly 70% of American drink two or more cups of coffee a day – in fact, there’s a good chance you may be drinking one right now. However you take it, with cream, sugar, bulletproof, or just black, the way we enjoy coffee says a lot about us, our culture, and history.
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In centuries past, the way we brew, roast, and consume coffee beans has changed, but our love for the “bean water” remains. Multiple cultures claim to have been the first coffee drinkers, and while it is likely that the custom had cropped up in more than one area the earliest evidence of drinking coffee originated in Yemen as early as the 15th century. By the 17th century, Europeans developed a ravenous taste for coffee encouraged by the movements of the East India Trading Company. Venetians and Parisians were among the first Europeans to adopt coffee culture; the first coffeehouses as we know them began cropping up in the Netherlands. The spark of coffeehouses was only the beginning of “modern” coffee culture as we understand it today, with the cultural impact going well beyond just drinking and enjoying a cup of coffee. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg called coffeehouses a “third place” as a kind of home away from home as an important kind of social setting beyond home or work.
Common “third place” spots include locations like bars, pubic parks, even barber shops in some areas and in both art and real life symbolize places of innovation. The New York Stock Exchange was born out of a meeting in 1792 in the Tontine Coffee House of New York City. Much later on, acclaimed sitcom “Cheers” took place almost entirely within a bar and later the spin off show “Frasier” also had a regular setting in the fictional Café Nervosa. In TV, eventually the coffee shop began to replace the bar as the spot to hang out, as understood from the “Friends effect.” This iconic coffeehouse became so beloved by fans that in 2014, Warner Brothers hosted a month-long recreation of the café and even has the shop’s name, logo, and signage design trademarked to this day.
From political defiance to everyone’s favorite TV show, the shifting culture of coffee perhaps mirrors the very movement of the world, reflecting our values, tastes, and even fears. What’s most enduring, however, is the simple piping hot cup of coffee. Where can we expect the future of coffee culture to take us - or where will we take it? This infographic details the rich history of coffee and what it means to us.