Having checked out a few cafes and coffee shops I was very excited to see advertised, Unreal City Audio’s new walking tour telling the history of London’s Coffee Houses, The Coffeehouse Tour. I was lucky to get a place on the latest tour, particularly lucky not to get a space on the February tour as it was apparently freezing that day!
There was a lot of Twitter interest in Dr Matthew Green, the creator of the tour, this week as the Telegraph had just published his very well received article on the subject - London cafes: the surprising history of London’s lost coffee houses.
There were about 25 in the group and we met on the steps of St Michael’s, Cornhill. In this churchyard the first coffee house was established. Matthew Green really knows his stuff and the tour has been well researched. The mileage covered is minimal but we visited several locations central to the history of the London Coffee House and learnt a great deal more besides. I also discovered a couple of out of the way spots to relax with a book!
The story was brought to life by musicians and actors with the most important and colourful character being Pasqua Rosée, the first person to have the idea of selling and then marketing coffee to Londoners in the spring of 1652.During our tour a local resident expressed her displeasure at Mr Rosée’s presence, subconsciously enacting the part of one of his many opponents of the time.
The use of a triangle to gain attention and then as a signal to action was simple and effective and was, to me, symbolic of the fun amateurish (in a good way) feel to the tour.
Matthew’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious but he had a battle with the traffic and the noise of construction which is a continuous activity in the City of London.
When I visit a coffee shop I love to have a chat with anyone who’s interested really and this was what the 17th Century coffee houses were like; though as a woman I wouldn’t have been welcome unless I was selling a certain service!
The whole story of London’s coffee houses is fascinating and dramatic and the tour is intertwined with the social and political history of which it was a part. A brilliant way to spend a couple of hours; I have already booked a place on the new Chocolate Tour at Easter.