Coffee Houses: Rich in Taste and History
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about coffee houses lately. I hadn’t realized that they had such a rich history behind them stretching back centuries. The first recorded coffee house opened in Istanbul in the 1500s. These “kahveh kanes” quickly became the main social spot to meet with friends and discuss the topics of the day like art, politics, and literature, like a pre-industrial Internet.
The European café began emerging in the mid-1600s, quickly spreading along the major trade routes. Being one of the main coffee ports along the Mediterranean, it did not surprise me when I read that Trieste, Italy, was famous for their coffee houses. Almost every coffee house made their own blends and brands of coffee and still do today. It is said you can go from one end of the city to the other and never taste the same cup twice.
England alone had over 3,000 coffee houses within a century, particularly around the university and well-to-do areas. So many scholars and academics from Cambridge and Oxford were debating over a cuppa, they became known as “Penny Universities”. Even today when I sit at my writing desk and wish it were my local roastery, I can imagine the lively debates overheard at the tables scattered throughout. Here it might be some ruleset errata over a particular game, a discussion of a podcast, or simple chitchat. But the coffeehouse serves the same purpose as a hundred years ago, when Paris cafes became the haunt of writers who would go on to achieve international fame. Ernest Hemingway spent his famous ‘lost years in Europe’ debating with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and T.S. Eliot as they knocked back the famous French dark roast at La Rotonde. I imagine a connection, across the years and miles, of like minds engaged in a singular pursuit, and smile over the rim of the dark pottery mug.
Coffee houses were where board games like chess, dominos, and backgammon became popular, leaving the private chambers of kings and pharaohs for the first time. Hmm, the first board game cafés?
All these years later, coffee houses remain a social spot to meet with friends and discuss the topics of the day but I do believe they are also a place to escape, somewhere to go it alone and slow down in today’s fast-paced world.
Written by Kyle O'Brien, Edited by Critical Hit Gaming Lounge's Greenwood Café and Roaster