Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The world is split into two categories: ...

those who go to coffee shops and those who don’t. ~ Georges Courteline

We, by nature, are creatures of comfort. We love to feather and dress our nest’s. It is naturally our homes that we think of when we define our comfort zone. But, for most of us (and regardless of which side of the world you reside), the coffee shop or café represents an alter comfort zone... They leave markers in our memories of favorite times gone by.

When I flew the coop of my parents, my first away from home comfort spot was the off-campus bohemian style café. There, I could feel connected to the world with similarly minded emancipated “adults”, and we easily solved all the world’s problems. Or, if I chose, I could also be there in solitude, yet not alone.

Through each stage of my life I have protected memories of times I spent with friends and new acquaintances at “the café”. Depending on which stage of my life, the cafe and friends changed; but, within each period of time, everyone always knew which café to meet at, because it was “the café”.

The funny thing about cafes and coffee shops is that we are so much more forgiving of their décor as long as they provide the right mix of atmosphere and comfort. Even upon first experience, they often seem to have an air of familiarity about them.

The history of the coffee shop actually dates back before the 1500’s and they served as the gathering spots for “great and like minds” … They hold an important role in political, cultural and artistic history…

And if walls could talk…well, they also hold secrets of loves lost and loves found...and one can easily imagine the conversations... that evaporate into invisible layers within.

Each of the following is, or was, “someone’s” favorite café of choice…

"In Venice, in 1759, there were over 200 coffee shops and the City Senate, due to reasons of public order, issued a law that limited new openings."

Caffé Florian

"What is happening with this elegant couple in this elegant place? Perhaps an early morning tryst? Is she sad - perchance leaving Venice and him behind? Of course, this is what we expect of Venice - even if they are just husband & wife having coffee."

This is looking into Caffe Florian

Caffé Florian was established in Venice in 1720: it is the most ancient historic Italian coffee shop

"In Germany coffee shops spread later than in the rest of Europe, only in the second half of the 18th century. Actually, the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, was fiercely against coffee consumption because he thought that coffee was in competition with beer, a typically national good. He imposed limitations and taxes on coffee; he also recruited a small group of “coffee sniffers” who had to find the places where coffee was illegally roasted as coffee roasting was a state monopoly."

"In England the first coffee shop opened in Oxford in 1650. Twenty years later, in London, there were about 300 coffee shops where the cultural life flourished. For a little less than a century England was the European country with the highest coffee consumption rate. Then tea prevailed and became part of the iconography of this country.

At the height of their success London Coffee Houses swarmed with life: crowded with people busy writing, admiring paintings, debating the most varied subjects.
On the fireplace are displayed a considerable number of coffee makers used to make coffee for those busy minds …"

In 1685 in London the Lloyd’s Coffee House was founded which would then become the most well-known insurance company of all times

In 1686, the Procope coffee shop opened in Paris; it was the “den” of philosophers and politicians who met there and had endless cultural debates; in the meantime they drank great amounts of coffee. Among the many regular customers were: Voltaire (a real coffee fanatic), Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Beaumarchais, Diderot, D’Alembert, Fontanelle, Balzac and Victor Hugo. Robespierre, Marat and Danton also met there and maybe, in that coffee shop, they conceived the 1789 French Revolution.

Procope coffee shop in Paris

Les Deux Moulins


via wikipedia.org;Le Fabuleux Destin d Amelie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain), is a 2001 French romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Audrey Tautou. Written by Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical and somewhat idealised depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. The Two Windmills (French, Les Deux Moulins) is a cafe in the Montmartre area of Paris. It takes its name from the two nearby historical windmills, Moulin Rouge and Moulin de la Galette. The interior consists of a bar area and multiple small tables at which one might sit and enjoy a piping hot espresso. Since it was featured as the workplace of Amelie, tourists and fans have inundated the premises.
(Thanks Pierre for the link)

Coffee consumption was suddenly forbidden at Mecca in 1511 and at Cairo in 1532. The ban was due to political reasons: coffee shops had become popular meeting places and the rulers feared that they would become the ideal place for the spreading of popular plots and insurrections.

Possibly the most famous coffee house is Café Central which is located in the Innere Stadt district at Herrengasse 14 in the former Bank and Stockmarket Building, today called the Palais Ferstel after its architect Heinrich von Ferstel. The cafe features a classical pianist during the afternoons and can count a sting of great literary, artistic and political figures amongst its past clientel. Nowdays, it offers WiFi internet access, so you can sit there with your laptop and make blog posts. The Viennese coffee house culture is a 320 year old tradition, it is regarded as normal for customers to linger for hours, perhaps engaging in conversation or maybe alone, quietly reading the free newspapers, writing or sketching.


Café Gerbeaud
It's is one of the oldest and most famous cafés of Europe operating since the middle of the 19th century .

The Coffee House was founded in 1944, in an old theatre, the Albert Hall. Its position opposite Calcutta University means it is popular with intellectuals. The interior is a brilliant example of what decorators call the distressed look, but it is entirely genuine rather than a decorator's creation.

The interior of the French Maid Coffee House, Wellington, New Zealand 1940s.


Ladies chatting over morning coffee, Paris


The Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel offers a touch of magic and romance in an authentic Arabic house deep in the heart of Stone Town.

Even when depicted and represented in art… the café or coffee shop holds strong meaning:

"Cafè Terrace at night" - Vincent Van Gogh
The waiter dressed in white walks through the tables despite it is late at night.
Under a starry sky the coffee shop shines like sun; it is warm, inviting, a meeting point for all night customers.

"Al caffè" (At the coffee shop) - Alessandro Milesi

In a lovely coffee shop, an elegant and refined, educated and society middle-class lady begins her day with a cup of coffee while reading the news.

But the newpaper is laying open on her lap and her wrist loosely leans on her cheek: maybe she is disappointed by the news ……

"Cocottina" - Antonio Donghi - 1927
The cup stands out at the centre of the painting and attracts our gaze.

The fashionable young lady with her firm and velvety gaze, the multitude of warm colours and of graceful shapes cannot take our mind off the surreal location of this imaginary outdoor coffee shop ...

"Amici al caffè" (Friends at coffee shop) - Amerigo Bartoli
This is the image of the political and literary coffee shop par excellence, a place where thinkers and politicians met and a place so greatly feared by rulers.
In this painting attitudes are pictured with uncommon sensitivity and liveliness.
You can almost hear the polite conversations and the tingling of the coffee cups served by the waiter. This is Rome in the 1930s.

"Automat" - Edward Hopper
Alone, sad, without past nor future.
Clinged to her cup of coffee and a million thoughts in her mind.
Hopefully coffee will bring her back from her thoughts and give her a brief and pleasant moment

Poster by Maira Kalman

This print reproduction of Maira Kalman's painting of Caffè Florian is characteristic of the Israeli-born artist's naive drawing and painting style. A unique interpretation of the historic café's colourful clientele. 48x70cm Available from their website: € 5,80 *

And of course, Americans will not be without their coffee...or the places that become so much a part of our lives and our own personal history...


Café du Monde

This 24-hour French Quarter coffee shop has a separate listing in the section Dozen Best Things to do in New Orleans because of the unique pleasure of enjoying beignets and chicory coffee in the early morning.


This is the interior of the Mill City Coffee Shop in Minnesota.

Caffe Trieste

Opened in 1956 by Giovanni Giotta, aka "Papa Gianni," the cafe was one of the first on the West Coast to serve espresso.

Dominican Joe

In Austin Texas, it exists to make a difference in the world.
Located in the heart of Austin, it is committed to working with non-profit organizations in Austin and around the world


Forza in Tumwater WA


Ini Ani Espresso Bar.......New York City

In the seating area, the predominant material is cardboard, stacked with exposed ends in steel framing of various heights and widths above stained wood bench seats. Along with the lids, the cardboard strips are a visual play on the popularity of coffee and its current means of containment. Openings break up the sound-absorbent, cardboard walls, as do projected boxes used as shelves for plants. Suspended lights, wood tables, chairs, and magazine racks finish out the intimate space.

Historical depictions and information from: http://www.aromacoffeecult.com/


  1. Just found your blog - love your architectural pictures! The churches are gorgeous - thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you Jackie ... it is my Pleasure.


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