The British Love Affair with Espresso

Apr 26, 2012



If this is coffee, then please, bring me some tea. But if this is tea, please bring me some coffee Abraham Lincoln

Ever thought of ESE espresso Sir?

The first written references to coffee here in the UK are found around 1598… And it is most likely that the coffees consumed were single origin Ethiopians…good taste!

Believe it or not, the first batches of coffee returned to the UK were thought to have medicinal properties – Francis Bacon was one of the many, who propounded the belief that coffee had a medicinal quality able to cure scurvy, gout and help with excessive drunkenness!

The first English Coffee house was established in either, Cornhill or Oxford, depending upon what you believe…The Oxford ‘branch’ called Angel (Grand Cafe) was opened by an entrepreneur named Jacobs in 1650 and flourished in this scholarly and experimental community  – These new establishments, which grew to a 3,000 strong compliment, served other new and racy beverages too – such as tea and chocolate!

During the proceeding ten years Oxford became famous for its profusion of coffee houses…Many of which were called ‘penny universities’ because they offered an alternative means of learning, education and a debating forum

An academic on this subject writes:

The power of these coffee houses…..’Lay in the fact that they were in daily touch with the people. Their purpose was something more than to provide a meeting-place for social intercourse and gossip; there was serious and sober discussion on all matters of common interest’ (Ellis 1956)

And this for me dear reader is the key point…coffee shops were a place of social interaction…of stimulation and challenge, of friendly debate and intellectual interrogation…compare this now to the Starbucks generation and the ‘Black Gold’ debacle, where we witnessed Starbucks threatening to taking the Ethiopian co operatives to court to prevent them from T.Marking their provincial / geographical descriptors

Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical ~Jonathan Swift

Women were allowed to take part in the cultural and political critiques which exercised the minds of the coffee house faithful and enlightenment trickled down to the wider community….’The (coffee houses allowed the) creation of a Bourgeois public sphere for the discussion and transformations of opinions’ (Outram, 1995)

And the inevitable ebb and flow and decline of coffee houses in the 18th century, it is suggested, is attributable to sheer simple snobbery…. Strangers were no longer welcome… alternative and challenging views were not countenanced and prices increased….

How sobering a thought this is, if we reflect, upon the current gourmet coffee cafe bar boom…

A certain Liquor which they call Coffee…which will soon intoxicate the brain

G. W. Parry (1601)

High prices…continuous double digit growth… and the rise of the coffee bar as the ‘third way’…. a mermaid, for a spiritual anchor, for the technological generation, which no longer has or understands the skill of simple human interaction…

What will happen next?  Que Sera, Sera? I think it’s time for my Aromo perfetto easy serve espresso as I ponder this next question….:)

This article was written by Guru ( Andy Grelak) who writes for, the UK’s leading online retailer of 44mm E.S.E espresso coffee pods