Nov 17, 2018

Penny universities & the European discovery of coffee

From the fun part of Wikipedia (a):

Europeans first learned about coffee consumption and practice through accounts of exotic travels to "oriental" empires of Asia... Travelers accounted for how men would consume an intoxicating liquor, "black in color and made by infusing the powdered berry of a plant that flourished in Arabia."

[Local] men consumed this liquid "all day long and far into the night, with no apparent desire for sleep but with mind and body continuously alert, men talked and argued, finding in the hot black liquor a curious stimulus quite unlike that produced by fermented juice of grape."

Its infusion into England started at Oxford:

Oxford, possessing the unique combination of exotic scholarship interests and a vibrant experimental community, was the first English city to establish a coffeehouse. A Jewish entrepreneur named Jacob established the first English coffee house in 1650, which he named the Angel.


The first coffeehouses established in Oxford were known as penny universities, as they offered an alternative form of learning to structural academic learning, while still being frequented by the English virtuosi who actively pursued advances in human knowledge.

Early English coffeehouses functioned as social levelers:

In a society that placed such a high importance on class and economic status, the coffeehouses were unique because the patrons were people from all levels of society. Anyone who had a penny could come inside.

And coffee is good for you!