Coffee gives people a reason to gather, a reason to connect in person and to share life news with family and old friends. These days you don’t even have to enjoy the taste of coffee to immerse yourself in coffee shop culture. If patrons aren’t supporting a local coffee shop via drinks, many are going for the open mic events, local art exhibitions, and even as a place to shop; collecting t-shirts and other custom merchandise

To put it simply, coffee shops are an epicenter for those values humankind shares on a global scale. But when did it all start? Well, coffee shop culture is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for centuries. Stick around to learn the story. 

Coffee Shops in the Beginning

The best place to grow coffee is in the tropics – in a narrow band around the equator between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. This includes parts of Central and South America, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Central and Western Africa, and the Middle East. 

Coffee was first cultivated commercially in Yemen and shipped from the port of Mocha. Europeans often blended this Yemeni bean with one grown in Java in Indonesia, resulting in an enduring blend still enjoyed today: Mocha Java.

Coffee shops themselves, like coffee, began in the Middle East and in Islamic Society as a place to gather. Most Islamic society eschews alcohol consumption, so while other cultures had their bars and pubs as places to gather, the coffee shop became a primary place to meet, find out the news, and discuss ideas.

Coffee Shop Culture Goes Abroad

With exploration and the establishment of trade routes, cultural exports made their way into European Society as well as exotic spices and fabrics. The first coffee shop in London was opened by an immigrant from the then Ottoman Empire in 1652. 

By 1688, there were many coffee shops in London and they had become a place, unlike the pub, for clear-headed discussion of ideas and exchange of information. Men, and it was only men who were allowed to patronize these early coffee houses, met to begin business partnerships and to talk about the government. The London insurer, Lloyd’s, started in a coffee shop in 1688. King Charles II even attempted to shut down coffee shops because the free flow of ideas seemed a little dangerous.

The idea of the coffee shop as a place where politics and business were discussed held true in the early American nation as well. Founding fathers of the new nation met at Merchants Coffee House in Philadelphia, and the New York Stock Exchange began in 1792 in a coffee shop at 82 Wall Street in Manhattan.

Coffee Shop Revolution Again

Throughout history, the popularity of the coffee shop has waxed and waned. People certainly never stopped drinking coffee, but for periods of time, it was mainly consumed in the kitchen or in a cafeteria after church. There has always been a place to buy a cheap cup of coffee in any city. 

Still, it was only with the advent of the idea that coffee was exceptional, that coffee should be treated like an event that the third wave of coffee shops arrived. 

Coffee Shops Then and Now

No matter the type of coffee shop you’re visiting, you expect a few aspects of the experience. One is the coffee! Many places focus on their own method of coffee preparation, like pour-over, and nearly every shop offers espresso drinks, which is more difficult to achieve at home.

You’ll come for the coffee, but you’ll most likely stick around for the culture and community that persists in the coffee shop environment today. 

Even before the pandemic sent most of us into our homes, the coffee shop had become a “third place.” That is, a place that is not your office or your home, but some place apart. Coffee shops have once again become a place where we hold meetings, meet a friend to catch up, leave our house or office to work, made possible by the advent of laptops and wireless internet. 

Community in a Cup

The average American drinks 3.1 cups of coffee a day, according to the National Coffee Association. Coffee shops foster community by creating a place where the price of entry is low, where we can be alone together, or where we can meet to exchange information and plan revolutions (or school fundraisers). 

As the proprietor of a coffee shop, you’re not just serving coffee; you’re helping to create a third place in the community for people to meet and share. Help to grow that community by offering a mug club or loyalty club and inviting regulars to use your space as part of their lives. 

Make coffee at your shop feel special by forgoing the paper cups and the waste that goes along with them. Serve your coffee in a distinctive stoneware coffee mug. Talk to Grey Fox Pottery about the Scrimshaw Process our artists use to turn your logo into a medallion that becomes part of the stoneware. Take a look at our customer gallery to see some of the amazing things we can do in clay. Contact us today to find out more about our stoneware coffee mugs