Thursday, 7 April 2016

Coffee Culture

The sixth annual London Coffee Festival kicks off today. It is the UK's largest coffee and artisan food event. There will be tastings and demonstrations, interactive workshops, street food, coffee-based cocktails, live music, DJs and art exhibitions - a complete social hub of all things coffee related!

Coffee has always had social connotations. Coffee culture dates back to the 17th century when the first cafes and coffeehouses opened in Europe. In Western Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean they were perfect venues for artistic and intellectual meetings. For example, Les Deux Magots in Paris (founded 1812), now a popular tourist attraction, was once associated with the intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in the 1930s.

Fifties London, saw an espresso revolution. By 1960, there were over 500 espresso bars, many of which were clustered in the West End, and Soho in particular. Numerous fashionable coffeehouses such as Le Macabre and The 2i's Coffee Bar were the spots to be seen at. The former was the most eccentric and wonderful coffeehouse to appear in London since the 18th century. The youthful, cosmopolitan clientele sat on black coffins, tipping ash into candlelit skulls, and listening to funeral music on the jukebox. The tar-coloured walls would be adorned with plastic skeletons and painted cobwebs. Its slogan: "Your coffee on a coffin". 

Left: 2i's Coffee Bar  Right: Le Macabre

The late 20th century coffee boom is largely accredited to nineties American television shows such as Friends and Frasier. A rise of coffee chains began to emerge around this period and were the go-to place for a catch up with friends. The resurgence of the independent artisan coffee shops was seen as a backlash against the big corporations, but they also brought back to the surface the true art of coffee making. All owe an unacknowledged debt to the espresso craze of the 1950s.

We found a few items at Alfies that would make ideal gifts for the coffee-holic!

Coffee cup and saucers: Left: Crown Derby, 1790  Middle: Worcester, c1890  Right: Geometric pattern by Paragon, 1930s. All offered by Beth
Japanese c1890 Kutani eggshell, set of 6 coffee cans, offered by Horner Antiques

Coffee bean spoons, boxed. Sheffield 1920 Cooper Brothers & Son Ltd, offered by Goldsmith & Perris

Coffee bean spoons, boxed. Offered by Beth
Coffee pots: Left to right: Mappin & Webb, 1930s; Elkington, Victorian. Offered by Goldsmith & Perris

Silver cocktail shakers perfect for Espresso Martinis: Left to right: Elkington, 1930s; French shaker, 1940s, offered by Goldsmith & Perris

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