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Coffee, its history, and impact on Business

Coffee, its history, and impact on Business

Everyone likes a good cup of coffee even though the beverage of choice in Ireland and the UK continues to be tea. But as you enjoy your 1st, or 2nd cup of coffee of the day have you ever considered its origins or its continual impact on business, both historic and contemporary?

Accounts differ, some say its origins are from Yemen in the Middle East but most accounts suggest it is Ethiopian in origin. An account over a 1,000 years old states that a goat herder noticed that his goats became most energetic and animated after eating from a bush. This turned out to be coffee and at first it was eaten. Eventually it was ground, it released a lovely aroma, and boiling water added – and coffee was born. The earliest accounts of coffee drinking come from Yemen. Coffee spread westwards due to the spread of Islam and along the trades routes they employed. The Yemenis exported from the port of Mocha which lent its name to that type of coffee (milk based). Coffee gained popularity in Yemen and Islamic states as it was a substitute for alcohol in social and business situations. Its stimulant qualities were deemed a lot more preferential to good commerce.

Eventually, coffee spread to Europe and ultimately to England where its influence over commerce, politics and philosophy was immense. The first coffeehouse opened in Cornhill in the late 16th century to satisfy the demand from merchants in the City of London. Coffeehouses quickly spread and by the mid-17th century there were 3,000 in London. This led to big business and a massive import business by the British and Dutch East India companies bringing in coffee from as far away as the Dutch East Indies (Java etc.). The coffee houses themselves were discursive zones – a lot of business was conducted, and it was seen as a much better option than doing business in the Taverns. They were also venues for political thought and ideology and were deemed such a threat by Charles II he looked to ban them. Eventually, for social reasons tea became the beverage of choice in London and the popularity of coffee declined.

However, its popularity has increased again in the UK, Europe and beyond throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Many initial business meetings, deals and introductions are conducted in coffee houses and once our current challenges with the pandemic pass there is no doubt, as very social creatures we will frequent coffee houses once more.

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