According to American historians* coffee culture began in the early 1970s, with the opening of a little cafe called ‘Starbucks’, the culture then flourished with the opening of a TV show called ‘Friends’. The show often featured the friends in Friends being friendly in a cafe, drinking coffee. According to real historians though, coffee culture began approximately 300 years before the United
Stasi States of America even existed.
It essentially started in Turkey and quickly became a fashionable past time, whereby everyone from artists, to intellectuals, to politicians would be seen socialising at coffee houses. These were often grand buildings, such as the stunning Cafe Central in Vienna or the beautifully quaint Les Deux Magots in Paris… or Costa Coffee (in every town in England) with its dry wipe surfaces and stools bolted to the floor.
I wasn’t alive during the coffee culture boom in the 1600s but had I been I still probably wouldn’t have been there. You see my own personal cultural heritage has evolved dramatically in the last 4 or 5 years. I know there are some people out there who still like to debate the existence of evolution but for sake of argument lets just stick with the fact it exists.
I come from a small ‘new town’, built for miners, and as part of this expansion required industry, it was presumably decided by the town planners that no cultural experiences should covet this new land. There was no cinema, no theatre, no music hall, no bowling hall*, no coffee house, no jazz bar or ice rink. I suppose the idea was that the men are down the mines all day and the women will do those classic womanly things, like look after kids and cook – except they closed the mines not long after creating the town. Oh well, at least that give everyone loads of free time to absorb the local culture.
I am of course being a little unfair as there were some cultural activities, such as the annual fair, where you could get punched, shouted at and contract Hepatitis B all in one night, and all for the bargain price of £5. In classic millennial style though I am being critical from a very privileged position, as I have a much easier, healthier, wealthier and stable life than basically every generation that grew up in that town before me.
What I’m trying to say is, my cultural instincts were born out of what we could access, so it was all football, computer games and messing around in the big forrest attached to the town. All fun and games – quite literally – but when I moved to continental Europe I was surprised to find that people weren’t going to forests in the summer with a sledge (sled for Americans) and throwing themselves down the steepest hills they could find and hitting into trees. They were doing weird things, like listening to live music, drinking coffee in beautiful cafes or reading books by the river.
If I ever needed proof that humans are easily influenced I am it. In 5 years of continental living I now go swanning back to my home town in loafers, reading books, asking for ‘skinny lattes’ and defending the continental breakfast as a healthier lighter option.
I see this now though, only because today epitomised that fact. We went out for a drive in the countryside, found a spot by the lake to read a book. We then went on to find a quaint coffee shop that sold homemade pastries and cakes – truly delicious. I even uttered the words ‘I’m going to try and reduce the amount of plastics I use’, presumably because I now want to save the planet single handedly.
There is still merit in someone who can hang drop from the highest branch of a tree, or who can kick a football the furthest. But I am enjoying this change over the last few years, and that is my new aim. Not to drink coffee and read books by lakes, but to accept change and to evolve with whatever comes. So my town in the future can expect me to turn up a lifelong hurling fan, a potato lover and to hang around at the end of rainbows.
*Casually dropping in some seriously unfair prejudice.
*Can’t say theres huge demand for a bowling hall however.