Coffee made its way over to Europe in the 17th Century, its initial use in Europe was for medicinal purposes. However it soon picked up some of the same cultural influences it had earlier in the Middle East and coffee houses began to pop up. These houses became central meeting places for the thinkers of the world. They became a place to exchange views for historians and philosophers alike, they even became known in some areas as ‘schools of the wise’. They lent themselves to being a good place of business too, merchants and insurance brokers and so forth would gather at coffee houses to make deals and exchange contracts. The coffee house in its modern form does not stray far away from these historical uses and it is even clearer now, in a day and age where over 400 billion cups of coffee a year are drank around the world that coffee culture provides a key forum for friends, family and colleagues to connect as well as a great space for personal reflection. Now a days “fancy a coffee?” Is now well known code for fancy a chat, a catch up, we need to talk and a multitude of other things, so how is this coffee culture ingrained in our lifestyle and what benefits to we get from it?
In the workplace
A morning cup of coffee is often relied on by those in the work place to get them into the right mind set for the days tasks ahead, getting that morning jolt of caffeine apparently provides the extra kick required to be more productive from the get go and in a fast paced world where productivity is key catching the extra hour or so of work in the morning can make all the difference to our success. It isn’t just that morning brew that’s shown to help us out at work. Coffee breaks provide a time to take a step back from your work and go back to it refreshed with a new approach to it and it also provides a space for colleagues to bounce ideas off of one another. Both of these things are important to enhancing productivity in the work place and creating a good team morale. In addition to this, meetings over coffee provide a more relaxed environment for networking than formal meeting spaces and are still formal enough to ensure you cover professional topics and have a productive discussion, networking is key to success in the workplace, especially those in which you find ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.
In our personal life
Coffee culture doesn’t just enhance our professional lives though it provides a space for us to grow as individuals too. Coffee houses can provide a quiet place for reflection, an area to just stop for a moment and take a breather from our hectic schedules and importantly a place to catch up on reading for leisure, education or keeping up with the news. Coffee houses that don’t have a few newspapers lying around are few and far between, bookshops usually have a coffee shop in them and now a days it’s unlikely you’ll find a coffee shop without Wi-Fi so they are obvious places for self-reflection and development.
In addition, they also lend themselves to being great spaces to connect with friends and family. Meeting for a coffee is usually less about the coffee itself and more about getting that time to connect with those close to you, somewhere neutral to chat, develop social networks, and meet for toddler groups or other social gatherings. This is part of the reason why coffee houses have such a big influence on community values and the spread of information in our society.
The reach of social benefits of meeting for coffee are now so widely recognised that they have actually spread out of the coffee house and into our homes. Research has shown that patients in nursing homes that have a coffee shop or area benefit greatly as it provides a social area to minimise the detrimental effects of isolation. These residents were also shown to have less of a breakdown in their cognitive development than residents in similar homes without the facility. We have now come to realise the social benefits of coffee houses more and more and even found a way to have ‘take out’ coffee culture by hosting coffee mornings in our homes. Here, social groups can meet for coffee to discuss topics they have in common such as children, their neighborhood, community projects and so forth. This adaptation has lent itself nicely to a way to make money for charity. Macmillian Cancer Support has a well-known fundraising event where people across the UK raise money through holding coffee mornings, selling coffee, cakes and so forth. Not only are they a place to seek support for those effected by cancer but also to raise money for the cause. It is amazing to think that something as simple as a hot beverage can bring people together in such a way, really making a big difference to our society’s values and goals.
In broader society
As the second largest commodity in the world, the reach and impact of coffee is vast and therefore it is quite rightly used by a number of initiatives to help put something back into society. Often cultural initiatives around coffee are about reducing the detrimental impact of producing the coffee in the first place, so they tend to focus on agricultural work or building better water, education systems and so forth in the regions in which the production of coffee may have put the residents at a disadvantage. One such initiative is Coffee Versus Gangs. Coffee V Gangs is an initiative based in Honduras, as one of few regions with the correct climate for coffee growing this initiative has been developed to take advantage of that potential. The people in this region are under threat from gangs continuously and for some it’s felt the only way to survive is to join them, so this initiative works to build and educate in the production off coffee cultivation so that Hondurans have an alternative way of life by building their own businesses. There are many other similar initiatives along these terms and although we all know that there are some ethical considerations regarding the coffee growing process, we live in a society in which we can not only neutralise the effect by only purchasing coffee that has been fairly and environmentally well produced but that we can go one further and actually make this little beverage go an awfully long way in adding value to societies.