It’s a cold day of late autumn. You walk down the street, stepping on the fallen leaves and enjoying the wind, when a scent of freshly roasted coffee hits you. You go into the very inviting coffee shop and ask for an espresso. Next to you, some friends are chatting about the new movie that was nominated for Oscars. At the table in the corner, a couple of lovers smile at each other. A young student and a professor are discussing possible themes for a new research paper next to the window, where nearby a brooder scribbles some angry lines in a notebook.
There seems to be something about the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the low tunes of blues that attracts people. From the very first coffee houses built around monasteries and religious universities to the corner Starbucks where aspiring writers pour their hearts on paper or in their MacBooks, these gathering places have always doubled as cultural hubs.
The first coffee shops were opened by the Ottoman Empire, in the middle of the 16th century, and they spread out wherever the empire went. They became extremely popular buildings, despite some bumps along the road. Bans were issued on the grounds that people would gather to criticize emperors or heads of state. Coffee itself was denounced as the drink of the devil, a drink for the lazy and posers. However, both the drink and the institution made their comebacks, without being that much affected.
When the idea of a coffee house came to Europe, these quickly became the places where people would go to enjoy high-class entertainment and intellectual debates. In England, the first coffee shop opened in 1652 and it was so popular that not even 50 years later, more than 2,000 coffee shops were built in London alone.
Fast forward 200 and some years, to the days when Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, the Fitzgeralds, and so many others were revolutionizing art in the coffee shops of Paris. Fast forward a little bit more and the coffee shop is now a means of gentrification. Wherever a slightly fancier coffee house opened its doors, people—perhaps subconsciously—followed. Places like Crown Heights, SoHo, Dumbo were changed when coffee shops popped up on the streets of New York.
Although romanticized, the coffee shop is even now a place where people would go to spend hours just talking, letting go of their phones and taking the time to really taste and enjoy their drinks. It is a place for the nostalgic people, those yearning for the coffee shops of the roaring ‘20s, or those of the 18th century.
The experience of the coffee shop is best lived. No matter the season, grab a book, find a near coffee shop, and go really enjoy life.