Coffee in the Regency
After several months of insomnia earlier this year, because of some health issues (of the autoimmune variety), I was forced to leave my beloved coffees behind in favor of decaf.
I mourned the loss, and after much experimentation found my new bliss using a new espresso machine and Lavazza decaf espresso. As a reader, you may have noticed a slight preoccupation with caffeine (sigh) when I released my last book, Friends of the Duke.
In researching the story, I learned that coffee and coffeehouses have dotted the English landscape since 1650, when the first English coffeehouse, Angel, opened in Oxford. Two years later London hosted their first, while the Queen's Lane Coffee House in Oxford opened in 1654 and is still serving coffee to this day!
These establishments influenced society as gathering spots for artists, intellectuals, merchants and even political discussions. Once dubbed "penny universities," one could pick up useful knowledge by spending an evening at such an institution. I have enjoyed a few historical romances centered on such fictitious coffee houses.
By the Regency coffeehouses were disappearing, but coffee had made its way into the drawing rooms of those who could afford it.
"It is rather impertinent to suggest any household care to a housekeeper, but I just venture to say that the coffee-mill will be wanted every day while Edward is at Steventon, as he always drinks coffee for breakfast."
Jane Austen to Cassandra, June 11, 1799
In the year 1800, Thomas Rowlandson drew this unexpected illustration “A Mad Dog in a Coffee-House”, showing a rabid dog terrorizing an English coffee house (possibly Garrison’s or Jonathan’s, near the Exchange).
I think I would have been quite irate to have my coffee (and discussion) interrupted in such a rude manner. Notice the fearful expressions of the patrons. The rather small dog must have been terrifying!