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How Coffee Shapes Our Culture And Culture Shapes Our Coffee

Brian Wallace

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How Coffee Shapes Our Culture And Culture Shapes Our Coffee

What’s in a cup of coffee? Some may say cream and sugar, but beyond the physical (and delicious) accouterments of coffee flavoring, we understand the humble cup of Joe as a cultural and global influence. The essence of coffee culture lies far beyond the drink itself, reflecting societal values, world trade and economics, even classism and political unrest.

Was Starbucks The Start Of Coffee Culture In America?

In 1971, Howard Schultz opened the very first Starbucks location in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Determined to bring Italian style coffee and European café culture to the United States, the menu espoused authentic and, at the time, exotic varieties of coffee like espresso and cappuccino. Starbucks took off as one of the most beloved American institutions of coffee and now operates over 29,000 locations, about 50% of them in the US alone. Today, Seattle and the Northwest are known as a hub for some of the best coffee in America and put it on the global map of coffee powerhouses. This is far from the beginning of the coffee phenomenon however – for that we must look to the past, perhaps farther back than one might imagine.

Coffee Culture Goes Back Further Than You Think

Though many cultures would claim to be the first coffee drinkers, the earliest known evidence of coffee drinking comes from Yemen during the 1400s. European coffee culture, however famous, would still wait several centuries until getting their hands on coffee beans; but once they did, massive cultural and political shifts were soon to follow. Supplied by the East India Trading Company, Parisians, Venetians, and the Dutch were some of the earliest Europeans to embrace coffee and transform it into the start of European coffee culture we understand today. History progressed, and in the time of the New World, emphasis on coffee and its symbolism was still evolving. As an act of defiance to the King, many Americans including president John Adams started drinking coffee following the events of the Boston Tea Party, rejecting royal oppression and distinguishing coffee with patriotic metaphor.

Coffee Impacts Our Culture In Every Way

Beverage aside, the coffeehouse itself works as a cultural haven for innovation, exampled by the birth of the New York Stock Exchange in 1792 in the Tontine Coffee House. Categorized by sociologists as a ”third place,” and understood as a social setting beyond the home or workplace, these locations include environments like public parks, barbershops, and bars. The “third place” is so cultural valuable that many settings in fictional works revolve around meeting in bars, clearly evident from the beloved sitcom “Cheers” which took place almost entirely within the characters’ local bar. Shifts in cultural influence in the 1990s, however, began to see the local bar be phased out of fictional media and replaced with coffee shops, exemplified in massively popular shows like “Friends” and Seinfeld.”

From 15th century Yemen to your local Starbucks, it’s safe to say that not much about coffee itself has changed, but rather our culture, our attitudes, and symbolism has. This infographic details the beginning of coffee culture, where it’s been, and where we will take it in the future.

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-2018. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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