One of the most picturesque chapters in the history of coffee—The first coffee house in London—The first coffee handbill, and the first newspaper advertisement for coffee—Strange coffee mixtures—Fantastic coffee claims—Coffee prices and coffee licenses—Coffee club of the Rota—Early coffee-house manners and customs—Coffee-house keepers' tokens—Opposition to the coffee house—"Penny universities"—Weird coffee substitutes—The proposed coffee-house newspaper monopoly—Evolution of the club—Decline and fall of the coffee house—Pen pictures of coffee-house life—Famous coffee houses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—Some Old World pleasure gardens—Locating the notable coffee houses
The two most picturesque chapters in the history of coffee have to do with the period of the old London and Paris coffee houses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Much of the poetry and romance of coffee centers around this time.
"The history of coffee houses," says D'Israeli, "ere the invention of clubs, was that of the manners, the morals and the politics of a people." And so the history of the London coffee houses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is indeed the history of the manners and customs of the English people of that period.
The First London Coffee House
"The first coffee house in London," says John Aubrey (1626–97), the English antiquary and folklorist, "was in St. Michael's Alley, in Cornhill, opposite to the church, which was sett up by one ... Bowman (coachman to Mr. Hodges, a Turkey merchant, who putt him upon it) in or about the yeare 1652. 'Twas about four years before any other was sett up, and that was by Mr. Farr. Jonathan Paynter, over-against to St. Michael's Church, was the first apprentice to the trade, viz., to Bowman."
Another account, for which we are indebted to William Oldys (1696–1761), the bibliographer, relates that Mr. Edwards, a London merchant, acquired the coffee habit in Turkey, and brought home with him from Ragusa, in Dalmatia, Pasqua Rosée, an Armenian or Greek youth, who prepared the beverage for him. "But the novelty thereof," says Oldys, "drawing too much company to him, he allowed the said servant with another of his son-in-law to set up the first coffee house in London at St. Michael's Alley, in Cornhill."
From this it would appear that Pasqua Rosée had as partner in this enterprise, the Bowman, who, according to Aubrey, was coachman to Mr. Hodges, the son-in-law of Mr. Edwards, and a fellow merchant traveler.
Oldys tells us that Rosée and Bowman soon separated. John Timbs (1801–1875), another English antiquary, says they quarreled, Rosée keeping the house, and his partner Bowman obtaining leave to pitch a tent and to sell the drink in St. Michael's churchyard.
Still another version of this historic incident is to be found in Houghton's Collection, 1698. It reads:
It appears that a Mr. Daniel Edwards, an English merchant of Smyrna, brought with him to this country a Greek of the name of Pasqua, in 1652, who made his coffee; this Mr. Edwards married one Alderman Hodges's daughter, who lived in Walbrook, and set up Pasqua for a coffee man in a shed in the churchyard in St. Michael, Cornhill, which is now a scrivener's brave-house, when, having great custom, the ale-sellers petitioned the Lord Mayor against him as being no freeman. This made Alderman Hodges join his coachman, Bowman, who was free, as Pasqua's partner; but Pasqua, for some misdemeanor, was forced to run the country, and Bowman, by his trade and a contribution of 1000 sixpences, turned the shed to a house. Bowman's apprentices were first, John Painter, then Humphry, from whose wife I had this account.
This account makes it appear that Edwards was Hodges' son-in-law. Whatever the relationship, most authorities agree that Pasqua Rosée was the first to sell coffee publicly, whether in a tent or shed, in London in or about the year 1652. His original shop-bill, or handbill, the first advertisement for coffee, is in the British Museum, and from it the accompanying photograph was made for this work. It sets forth in direct fashion: "The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink First publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosée ... in St. Michaels Alley in Cornhill ... at the Signe of his own Head."
H.R. Fox Bourne (about 1870) is alone in an altogether different version of this historic event. He says:
"In 1652 Sir Nicholas Crispe, a Levant merchant, opened in London the first coffee house known in England, the beverage being prepared by a Greek girl brought over for the work."
There is nothing to substantiate this story; the preponderance of evidence is in support of the Edwards-Rosée version.
Such then was the advent of the coffee house in London, which introduced to English-speaking people the drink of democracy. Oddly enough, coffee and the Commonwealth came in together. The English coffee house, like its French contemporary, was the home of liberty.
Robinson, who accepts that version of the event wherein Edwards marries Hodges's daughter, says that after the partners Rosée and Bowman separated, and Bowman had set up his tent opposite Rosée, a zealous partisan addressed these verses "To Pasqua Rosée, at the Sign of his own Head and half his Body in St. Michael's Alley, next the first Coffee-Tent in London":
Were not the fountain of my Tears
Each day exhausted by the steam
Of your Coffee, no doubt appears
But they would swell to such a stream
As could admit of no restriction
To see, poor Pasqua, thy Affliction.
What! Pasqua, you at first did broach
This Nectar for the publick Good,
Must you call Kitt down from the Coach
To drive a Trade he understood
No more than you did then your creed,
Or he doth now to write or read?
Pull Courage, Pasqua, fear no Harms
From the besieging Foe;
Make good your Ground, stand to your Arms,
Hold out this summer, and then tho'
He'll storm, he'll not prevail—your Face
Shall give the Coffee Pot the chace.
Eventually Pasqua Rosée disappeared, some say to open a coffee house on the Continent, in Holland or Germany. Bowman, having married Alderman Hodges's cook, and having also prevailed upon about a thousand of his customers to lend him sixpence apiece, converted his tent into a substantial house, and eventually took an apprentice to the trade.
Concerning London's second coffee-house keeper, James Farr, proprietor of the Rainbow, who had as his most distinguished visitor Sir Henry Blount, Edward Hatton says:
I find it recorded that one James Farr, a barber, who kept the coffee-house which is now the Rainbow, by the Inner Temple Gate (one of the first in England), was in the year 1657, prosecuted by the inquest of St Dunstan's in the West, for making and selling a sort of liquor called coffe, as a great nuisance and prejudice to the neighborhood, etc., and who would then have thought London would ever have had near three thousand such nuisances, and that coffee would have been, as now, so much drank by the best of quality and physicians?
Handbill used by Pasqua Rosée, who opened the first coffee house in London From the original in the British Museum
Hatton evidently attributed Fair's nuisance to the coffee itself, whereas the presentment clearly shows it was in Farr's chimney and not in the coffee.
Mention has already been made that Sir Henry Blount was spoken of as "the father of English coffee houses" and his claim to this distinction would seem to be a valid one, for his strong personality "stamped itself upon the system." His favorite motto, "Loquendum est cum vulgo, sentiendum cum sapientibus" (the crowd may talk about it; the wise decide it), says Robinson, "expresses well their colloquial purpose, and was natural enough on the lips of one whose experience had been world wide." Aubrey says of Sir Henry Blount, "He is now neer or altogether eighty yeares, his intellectuals good still and body pretty strong."
Women played a not inconspicuous part in establishing businesses for the sale of the coffee drink in England, although the coffee houses were not for both sexes, as in other European countries. The London City Quaeries for 1660 makes mention of "a she-coffee merchant." Mary Stringar ran a coffee house in Little Trinity Lane in 1669; Anne Blunt was mistress of one of the Turk's-Head houses in Cannon Street in 1672. Mary Long was the widow of William Long, and her initials, together with those of her husband, appear on a token issued from the Rose tavern in Bridge Street, Covent Garden. Mary Long's token from the "Rose coffee house by the playhouse" in Covent Garden is shown among the group of coffee-house keepers' tokens herein illustrated.
The First Newspaper Advertisement
The first newspaper advertisement for coffee appeared, May 26, 1657, in the Publick Adviser of London, one of the first weekly pamphlets. The name of this publication was erroneously given as the Publick Advertiser by an early writer on coffee, and the error has been copied by succeeding writers. The first newspaper advertisement was contained in the issue of the Publick Adviser for the week of May 19 to May 26, and read:
In Bartholomew Lane on the back side of the Old Exchange, the drink called Coffee, (which is a very wholsom and Physical drink, having many excellent vertues, closes the Orifice of the Stomack, fortifies the heat within, helpeth Digestion, quickneth the Spirits, maketh the heart lightsom, is good against Eye-sores, Coughs, or Colds, Rhumes, Consumptions, Head-ach, Dropsie, Gout, Scurvy, Kings Evil, and many others is to be sold both in the morning, and at three of the clock in the afternoon).
Chocolate was also advertised for sale in London this same year. The issue of the Publick Adviser for June 16, 1657, contained this announcement:
In Bishopgate Street, in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house is an excellent West India drink called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates.
Tea was first sold publicly at Garraway's (or Garway's) in 1657.
Strange Coffee Mixtures
The doctors were loath to let coffee escape from the mysteries of the pharmacopœia and become "a simple and refreshing beverage" that any one might obtain for a penny in the coffee houses, or, if preferred, might prepare at home. In this they were aided and abetted by many well-meaning but misguided persons (some of them men of considerable intelligence) who seemed possessed of the idea that the coffee drink was an unpleasant medicine that needed something to take away its curse, or else that it required a complex method of preparation. Witness "Judge" Walter Rumsey's Electuary of Cophy, which appeared in 1657 in connection with a curious work of his called Organon Salutis: an instrument to cleanse the stomach. The instrument itself was a flexible whale-bone, two or three feet long, with a small linen or silk button at the end, and was designed to be introduced into the stomach to produce the effect of an emetic. The electuary of coffee was to be taken by the patient before and after using the instrument, which the "judge" called his Provang. And this was the "judge's" "new and superior way of preparing coffee" as found in his prescription for making electuary of cophy:
Take equal quantity of Butter and Sallet-oyle, melt them well together, but not boyle them: Then stirre them well that they may incorporate together: Then melt therewith three times as much Honey, and stirre it well together: Then add thereunto powder of Turkish Cophie, to make it a thick Electuary.
A little consideration will convince any one that the electuary was most likely to achieve the purpose for which it was recommended.
THE FIRST NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENT FOR COFFEE—1657
Another concoction invented by the "judge" was known as "wash-brew", and included oatmeal, powder of "cophie", a pint of ale or any wine, ginger, honey, or sugar to please the taste; to these ingredients butter might be added and any cordial powder or pleasant spice. It was to be put into a flannel bag and "so keep it at pleasure like starch." This was a favorite medicine among the common people of Wales.
The book contained in a prefix an interesting historical document in the shape of a letter from James Howell (1595–1666) the writer and historiographer, which read:
Touching coffee, I concurre with them in opinion, who hold it to be that black-broth which was us'd of old in Lacedemon, whereof the Poets sing; Surely it must needs be salutiferous, because so many sagacious, and the wittiest sort of Nations use it so much; as they who have conversed with Shashes and Turbants doe well know. But, besides the exsiccant quality it hath to dry up the crudities of the Stomach, as also to comfort the Brain, to fortifie the sight with its steem, and prevent Dropsies, Gouts, the Scurvie, together with the Spleen and Hypocondriacall windes (all which it doth without any violance or distemper at all.) I say, besides all these qualities, 'tis found already, that this Coffee-drink hath caused a greater sobriety among the nations; for whereas formerly Apprentices and Clerks with others, used to take their mornings' draught in Ale, Beer or Wine, which by the dizziness they cause in the Brain, make many unfit for business, they use now to play the Good-fellows in this wakefull and civill drink: Therefore that worthy Gentleman, Mr. Mudiford, who introduced the practice hereof first to London, deserves much respect of the whole nation.
The coffee drink at one time was mixed with sugar candy, and also with mustard. In the coffee houses, however, it was usually served black; "few people then mixed it with either sugar or milk."