By reputation, tea and teatime is a British institution and “a cuppa” is a key part of each and every day. Before tea though there was coffee which became the most fashionable drink in London in the late 1600’s. London’s first coffeehouse was opened in 1652 by an eccentric Greek named Pasqua Roseé who had developed a taste for the exotic Turkish drink whilst living in Smyrna and decided to import it to London when he moved there.
Of course, people were initially wary of this most exotic drink but it soon became part of everyday life. The diarist Samuel Pepys described a visit to the London coffee house in Cornhill on 10 December 1660: “the first time that ever I was there, and I found much pleasure in it, through the diversity of company and discourse.” When in 1667 King Charles II’s celebrated mistress, Nell Gwyn, appeared in a comedy entitled The Coffee-house, to his chagrin, Pepys found the performance entirely sold out.
Men drank their coffee in London’s coffee houses while they transacted business, discussed politics, literary or scientific works in progress. Men such as Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke shared their thoughts and attended them and coffee houses became known as ‘schools of the wise’: the place you went to if you wanted to know what was going on in the world. Thus a link between coffee and intellectual life was established and by 1700 there were perhaps over 2000 coffee houses in London.
Listening and talking to strangers – sometimes for hours on end – was a founding principle of coffee houses yet one that seems most unexpected to us today despite our endless chains of coffee shops. Mostly these are visited now by people tapping on iPads and wearing headphones.
A year ago in January much of the world was locked down. It was winter and we all had a hugely challenging time ahead of us mentally, emotionally, financially and physically. Doing something, having a structure, helps me so I thought I would give myself some focus and began my Monday quirky corner coffee morning on Instagram. Coffee, of course, is one of the key words on a Monday morning. I am very fond of coffee, especially the one I have mid morning when hopefully a few things might have been accomplished. It is a delicious moment around 11am, not that the chat is of anything other than a story or place behind the scenes.
For example, I sat in the ha-ha, found odd corners in the castle, climbed just outside the portico bedroom or sat by by trees. Back to January this year, 2022, and I thought I would again invite you to join me for a few minutes in various quirky corners naturally clutching my warming cup. I thought I would start neither up nor down today and see where we go thereafter. Perhaps I could then host a Monday quirky corner answering any questions you might wish to ask!
Monday is a new day and one on which we can set off with new thoughts and a new tone for the week ahead, even perhaps with a new perspective. Whatever obstacles each of us is facing, not all of them are permanent and sometimes coffee can be the alchemy.