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Coffee-House How coffee came to rewrite the experience of metropolitan life, with London in its colorful 17th- and 18th-century heyday at the center of the story.

When the first coffee house opened in London in 1652, customers were bewildered by this strange new drink from Turkey; those who tried the bitter black brew, however, were soon won over. For the next century, the coffee house was at the center of British urban life, creating a distinctive social culture by treating all customers as equals. Around its egalitarian tables, merchants held auctions, writers held discussions, scientists demonstrated experiments, and philanthropists deliberated reforms. Coffee houses thus came to play a key role in the explosion of political, financial, scientific, and literary change in the 18th century. In the 19th century, tea replaced coffee as the nation's most popular drink, but the 1950s saw a dramatic revival of coffee-drinking with the advent of the "coffee bar," as did the 1990's onward with the arrival of retail chains like Starbucks. In The Coffee House, Markman Ellis offers a timely and fascinating account of this enduring cultural phenomenon.

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