Coffee was hardly known in Europe before the seventeenth century and did not come via a direct route from Africa, but found its way to Britain through Mediterranean trade routes with the Muslim world.
Queen Elizabeth I opening up diplomatic relations with her new-found Moroccan and Ottoman friends, establishing good trading relations and sea-faring agreements. This trade allowed goods such as tea from Asia, coffee, and chocolate to filter into England.
Britain’s first coffee shop opened in Oxford in 1650 by a Turkish Jew named Jacob. Two years later, a Greek servant, Pasqua Rosee, brought the new drink to the capital, opening a shop in St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill.
By 1660, London’s coffeehouses had become an integral part of its social culture. Soon, intellectuals, professionals and merchants thronged to the coffee houses to debate, distribute pamphlets, do deals, smoke clay pipes and, of course, consume a coffee. By by 1663 there were more than 83 coffee houses in London and at the beginning of the eighteenth century there were as many as five or six hundred.
In 1674 The Women’s Petition Against Coffee was set up in London. Women complained that men were never to be found at home during times of domestic crises, since they were always enjoying themselves in the coffee houses. A year later, King Charles II tries to supress the coffee houses because they were regarded as hotbeds of revolution but his proclamation is revoked after a huge public outcry and the ban lasts just 11 days.
By 1750, tea had replaced coffee as Britain’s favourite drink. First made fashionable by Charles II wife, Queen Catherine, the hugely-powerful East India Company flooded the domestic market with it to boost its trade interests.