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Coffee houses in London


Oxford origins

Coffee House token.
View full size imageCoffee house token. © NMM
The first coffee house was established in Oxford in 1650. According to Antony Wood, 'Jacob, a Jew, opened a Coffey house at the Angel, in the Parish of St Peter in the East, Oxon, and there it was by some, who delighted in the Noveltie, drank.' 

It was not long before the taste and fashion for coffee spread to the capital. London's first coffee house, the Pasqua Rosee, was established in Cornhill in 1650.  Many of the houses provided their own tokens, which were paid as a small entrance fee to the coffee house.

Early opposition

Charles II.
View full size imageCharles II. © NMM
Not everyone was in favour of the coffee house. The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, 1674, asserted that the drink 'made men as unfruitful as the deserts whence the unhappy berry is said to be brought'.

However, they proved incredibly popular, providing a gathering place to exchange news and gossip and conduct business.  Many were grouped around the Royal Exchange, Custom House, Post-Houses and the court itself. 

In 1675, Charles II 'called for the suppression of all coffee-houses in London as being places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of his Majesty and his Ministers'. The uproar that followed forced Charles to cancel this edict.