1750 – Caffe Greco opens in Rome becoming one of the first of Europe’s coffee houses. Located very close to the Spanish Steps, the coffee house was visited by Goethe enjoyed his coffee here in 1786 on his travels through Italy.
Over the decades many other creative minds have frequented this renowned cafe including Mendelssohn, Casanova, Stendhal, Wagner, and Liszt.
1773 – The Boston Tea Party leads to a revolt against tea in general, and coffee becomes the patriotic beverage to consume in America. The issue began when King George of England placed a burdensome tax on tea to the great displeasure of the Boston populace. There was also still a great deal of anger due to the 1763 Stamp Act crisis.
A coffee house called the Green Dragon was the site of the planning for the Boston Tea Party. Protesters assumed the costumes of Native Americans and went to Boston Harbor where they boarded the ships of England and threw the tea they were carrying into the sea.
From that day onward the drinking of coffee was a statement of freedom from the oppression of England and loyalty to the American cause.
Before the Tea Party coffee was consumed primarily only by the upper class while those who were less wealthy drank tea. After the tea party coffee became the drink of the commoner.
1774 – From the Merchants Coffee House in New York City, the Committee of Correspondence sends a letter to Boston proposing the American Union.
1777 – Prussia’s Frederick the Great attempts to block green coffee imports because they are providing too much competition for local products and the country’s wealth is being depleted. A public protest soon causes him to reverse his decision.
Frederick the Great is quoted as saying, “It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence.”
Frederick the Great went on to say, “Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both of his ancestors and officers,” adding that “many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.”
1785 – Benjamin Moseley writes, “The use of [coffee] will probably become greatly extended – as in other countries, it may diffuse itself among the mass of the people, and make a considerable ingredient in their daily sustenance.”
1792 – At 68 Wall Street the beginnings of the New York Stock Exchange takes place on the second floor of the Tontine Coffee House at the northwest corner of Wall Street and Water Street in New York City.
The trading began with the Buttonwood Agreement which took place on May 17, 1792 between twenty-four businessmen who had earlier held a meeting outside the building beneath a big sycamore tree they referred to as Buttonwood.
At this meeting they agreed upon the rules they would use for trading.
Over the years the historic house was frequented by brokers, underwriters, traders, merchants, and politicians. After the French Revolution the coffee house was often the site of fist fights between sympathizers of the French and the British.
The trading that went on at the Tontine Coffee House continued until 1817 and led to the creation of the New York Stock and Exchange Board which was the precursor to the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1826 the building was converted into a tavern, and then in 1832 it became a hotel. Later the building was demolished although a high-rise on the site still bears the name.
Next see Coffee History / 1800-1850