Contemplating the common coffee bean can be a very enlightening experience if you allow it to be. For example, what is coffee really? Is it just a plant from which we make a delicious beverage, or is it a commodity that has had a significant impact on society? Your knowledge of the history of coffee probably dictates how you answer these two questions.
National Public Radio presented a very compelling piece back in 2013 demonstrating the social and cultural impacts of coffee over hundreds of years of history. Needless to say, coffee is more than just a beverage we drink. It has been part of world-changing political decisions, the creation of beautiful works of art, and the development of strong economic engines in multiple countries across the globe. Below are a few highlights from the NPR piece that provide a clear picture of how important coffee has been throughout history.
The London Coffeehouse Scene
We do not typically associate coffee houses with London, but they had such establishments long before we did. According to NPR, the world-renowned Lloyd’s of London insurance company was formed in a London coffeehouse by the same name in 1688. Proprietor Edward Lloyd established his coffeehouse as a gathering place for ship owners, sailors, and merchant marines. It eventually became a place where mariners and insurers could meet to discuss insurance, leading Lloyd to establish his own insurance company.
NPR also notes those same London coffeehouses were meeting places for journalists, authors, and even great composers like Bach and Beethoven. They say that some of the greatest compositions of classical music and literature may have been born in 17th- and 18th-century coffeehouses.
Coffee and the American Revolution
Coffee played a significant role as a political statement at the start of the American Revolution. As you might guess, once patriots dumped all that tea into Boston Harbor in 1773, citizens and politicians alike stopped drinking British tea and took up coffee instead. Coffee became an important political symbol in that it signified one’s allegiance to America and a subsequent disdain for Britain.
Modern Coffee Movement
Today, coffee continues to have a significant social and cultural impact. While the coffeehouses of the Pacific Northwest have generated an entirely separate coffee culture that is as distinct as the wine, chocolate and cheese cultures, socially-minded coffee drinkers are championing the cause of growers and laborers who they believe are not being treated fairly.
Of course, coffee has also spawned new technologies and inventions that have made millions of dollars for their inventors. The single-cup coffee machine is but one example. And with every such invention, there is another paradigm shift in the way we make and consume coffee.
Coffee has undoubtedly shaped cultures and societies for hundreds of years. We are just happy to be able to be a part of it here at Galaxie. If it were not for coffee, we would be doing something else for a living.