What induced the British to adopt foreign coffee-drinking
customs in the seventeenth century? Why did an entirely new social
institution, the coffeehouse, emerge as the primary place for
consumption of this new drink? In this lively book, Brian Cowan
locates the answers to these questions in the particularly British
combination of curiosity, commerce, and civil society. Cowan
provides the definitive account of the origins of coffee drinking
and coffeehouse society, and in so doing he reshapes our
understanding of the commercial and consumer revolutions in Britain
during the long Stuart century.
Britain's virtuosi, gentlemanly patrons of the arts and
sciences, were profoundly interested in things strange and exotic.
Cowan explores how such virtuosi spurred initial consumer interest
in coffee and invented the social template for the first
coffeehouses. As the coffeehouse evolved, rising to take a central
role in British commercial and civil society, the virtuosi were
also transformed by their own invention.
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