Coffee and its effects on society

[snail] A dense article, academic in tone: No coffee – Jakob Norberg – translated from Swedish. Some of Norbergs insights about coffee are fascinating, though. The article mostly addresses the early history of the coffee house, but there are implications for modern cafe culture too.

The idea of sitting in a cafe is a typically bourgeois one – i.e. appealing to the middle class – it gives a sense of safety and comfort.

[C]offee has slightly different connotations in the German context. It is often associated with particular values – or perhaps a particular atmosphere and mood – encapsulated in the notion of Gemütlichkeit, of semi-domestic coziness and comfort.

My favourite insight, though, was this idea that it was the coffee house that broke down barriers between people, giving them a place where they could exchange ideas: instead of having to relate as shopkeeper/customer, master/servant, or within a family, people could meet together and talk. Some of the best cafes I’ve been to can, on occasion, facilitate that, even today.

…[Do] coffee shops…embody the kind of public sphere that Habermas described: a forum for discussion available to all who want to express their views and are prepared to advance and listen to arguments without consideration of hierarchies and official positions…

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