Anonymous Interior of a London Coffee House, 1668
The social institution of the coffee house, modeled on Arab practices, began to appear in Europe in the 17th century, and mostly in large cities. These establishments were rather small— they reeked of tobacco smoke and were mostly populated by men.
In the middle of the seventeenth century, chocolate, coffee, and tea all gained widespread, and quite sudden, popularity throughout Europe. The timing of this introduction has more to do with patterns of European consumption than it does with the various ways these crops were encountered by Europeans through colonial expansion. The import of caffeinated goods into Europe such as tea, chocolate, and coffee had profound effects on European bourgeois consumption and and what, indeed, it meant to be bourgeois. The idea of fashion as a means of social discrimination created a market for luxury and exotic goods, and caffeinated drinks were essential to the visible demonstration of possessing the exotic and foreign.
Coffee houses started to appear by the thousands in the 18th century and became the focus of the emerging bourgeois class of urban professionals where politics could be discussed and business deals were made. Men of all social classes were welcomed in the coffee house, as coffee was seen as a drink that promoted sobriety and virtue. Women were not allowed to join in on the fun, even though they were not barred from working at these establishments.
Coffee houses were places in which news was shared between certain merchant and professional classes, and some coffee houses became associated with certain professions. London coffee houses, for example, became the birthplaces of such institutions such as Lloyd’s Insurance and the London Stock Exchange.