Coffee is as popular a drink in London as it is the other major cities in the Western world, with the generic multinational chains on every corner and many independent coffee shops and cafes selling the good black stuff to millions of people. Coffee suppliers are in a good business right now! It isn’t that widely known however, that London was one of the first major cities to undergo a coffee renaissance as far back as the 17th century!
The Popular 17th Century Drink for the Intellectuals
The first coffeehouse in London was a stall owned by a Greek man named Pasqua Roseé who had developed a taste for coffee whilst a servant in Turkey for a British merchant. The coffee he sold was fuel to the countless individuals who gathered around his central London stall to talk about life, love, loss, war, poetry and the universe. His passion for coffee led to a boom for the beverage, with it being seen as the opposite of drunkenness, with 82 coffeehouses opening within the city walls by 1663. These places were safe havens for those who wished to speak openly about the politics of the time, something that was a contentious issue for the ruling classes.
Unlike the homogeneity of modern day coffee shops, this boom in coffee in London during the 17th century and beyond was full of bespoke coffeehouses, each with its own character and woven into the fabric of its local vicinity. You could go to a coffeehouse for a drink, a chat, and a haircut, to sober up, as a key to the brothels of the local area. The opportunities were endless. In fact, one of the world’s most famous locations started off as a popular London coffeehouse.
The History of Lloyd’s of London
As London grew in financial and trade importance, a global force that powered the world, the demand for ship and cargo insurance increased. Lloyd’s Coffee House was opened in 1688 and became a popular place for merchants, ship-owners and sailors to sit back and relax, but also a place where Lloyd could provide them with reliable and up-to-date shipping news.
Insurance deals would be discussed and brokered over a coffee and this resulted in Lloyd’s of London being created, before the business relocated to Lombard Street and later to the Royal Exchange in 1774 as the Society of Lloyd’s. What started out as a place to hang out, drink coffee and network with others in the industry ended up becoming the world’s leading market for specialist maritime insurance!