Coffee has an incredibly interesting history. The integration of the product into the politics, economics, religion and philosophical discussions throughout time is worth a study. Coffee is a part of the cultures of mankind. It is a universal language that exists in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America, parts of Asia, and certainly the United States.
There are numerous stories regarding the discovery of coffee; whether it was a shepherd following the lead of his flock who were seen chewing the red coffee cherries and falling over from a caffeine stupor or something more scientific, we may never know. All would agree, however, the origins of the product are in Ethiopia and Yemen. The first coffee houses sprung up in Mecca and quickly spread throughout the Arabian trade routes. The Dutch, apparently brought the beans through Indonesian and then with Venetian traders to Europe.
The first known coffee houses in Europe, began in Italy, and in 1720 the Caffe' Florian opened in the Piazza San Marco. This plush coffee house is still operating.
Around the same time, coffee gatherings were happening in America in the centers of New York and Boston. I hadn’t realized, until I did some research, that The New York Stock Exchange began in a coffee house on what would become, Wall Street. Of course, we all know that the Boston Tea Party, presented as a protest to the tea tax, was organized in a Boston coffee house.
What is most important about coffee houses is they were the portal for intellectual and political (note that I separated the two) discussions both in Europe and America. In all likelihood, the plans for the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were designed with a cup of coffee in hand. This opportunity to converse on important topics is the hallmark of coffee houses, something that, in recent years, has been re-created from coast to coast. One could almost feel the creative energy in modern American coffee houses, the place where many business start-ups, brilliant theories and creative relationships were nurtured. Starbucks greatest contribution to America may very well be as an incubator for the greatest business ideas of the 21st century; an incubator fueled by coffee.