"The history of coffee and coffee houses in London is particularly revealing of how coffee shaped the emergence of modern society. The first coffee house opened in London in 1652. A man named Bowman, servant to a merchant in the Turkey trade, opened it in partnership with Pasqua Rosee in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill. An advertising handbill from the shop, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, is preserved in the British Museum. The first newspaper advertisement for coffee dates from 1657, the year in which chocolate and tea were first sold publicly in London. Political activity was linked with the coffee houses from the beginning. Pepys notes the formation of the Coffee Club of the Rota in 1659, a forum for exchange of republican views which met in the Turk's Head. The number of such establishments (most near the Royal Exchange) grew markedly following the Restoration, so that by 1663, there were licensing requirements. These early coffee houses offered minimal accommodations, often consisting simply of a large room with several tables. Neither the plague years 1664-1665 nor the Great Fire of London in 1666 diminished the growing role of the coffee house. In fact, the rapid reconstruction of the Royal Exchange (completed by 1669) was accompanied by the opening of many new coffee houses.
"Controversy accompanied the introduction of the new drink. Broadsides and pamphlets such as *A Coffee Scuffle* (1662) or *The Character of a Coffee House ... by an Eye and Ear Witness* (1665) presented opposing views of the social, cultural and even medical questions raised by coffee. In the 1670s, political intrigue was the chief focus of concerns. Coffee houses were characterized as 'seminaries of sedition.' King Charles II issued an order for the suppression of coffee houses in late December 1675, but this was rescinded before it ever took effect. Coffee houses were again at the focus of inquiries into the Popish plot of Titus Oates in 1679-1680.
"'In a coffee house just now among the rabble, I bluntly asked, which is the treason table?' was how a 1681 comedy described the state of affairs. And yet, as a place where political opinions were exchanged, and where news, newsletters, and mail were distributed, coffee houses played an undeniable role in the growth of English political liberty.
"At a time when the streets of London were largely unpaved and only barely passable, and when few merchants had offices, coffee houses served an equally important function for the trading community. The most celebrated example is Edward Lloyd's coffee house in 1691. Lloyd had special arrangements to receive news of shipping, and the Lloyd's insurance institution as well as the Register of Shipping originated in these gatherings. Similarly, London stockbrokers first met in Jonathan's coffee house." http://www.avramdavidson.org/coff…
St Michael's Alley EC3 where Bowman (or Edwards) together with Pasqua Rosee (Easter Rose) who was adept in the art of soaking the beans to produce a palatable beverage, founded the first coffee-house (as a plaque on the site attests), is called 'St Michael's Lane' on the 1746 map. It is found by taking Cornhill (ENE @ 2:00 on this segment of the map) past the Royal Exchange (on the left = N), past Burchin Lane (on the R), the, just before St Michael's Church, turn R into St Michael's Lane. http://www.motco.com/map/81002/Se…
If you'd like to experience the lost world of the London coffeehouse, as visited 99 times by Samuel Pepys, Unreal City Audio runs immersive, critically acclaimed guided tours around the sites of London's original coffeehouses on the third Saturday of every month. They're led by an expert in the field, Dr Matthew Green, with actors, musicians, and free shots of gritty black coffee brewed 17th-century style. See:
On the tour, you visit the sites of many of the establishments frequented by Pepys including the Cornhill Coffeehouse, Bowman's and Garraway's. It also features Will's Coffeehouse in Covent Garden, where Pepys finds 'very witty and pleasant discourse' and sees Dryden on 3 Feb. 1664.
There is a wonderful book (one of many similar, I gather) titled CLUBS AND CLUB LIFE IN LONDON, (1872) (https://archive.org/search.php?qu…) which has numerous anecdotes about literary and political lights of the early days of Coffee Houses. Pepys features notably at "Will's", as well as Pope, Sheridan, and many others.
Coffee houses were also known as Penny Universities. This article makes it clear that Pepys' visits to The Rota Club were held in a coffee house. And that the freedom of thought and expression scared Charles II -- but he could not close them. (Funny how want-to-be dictators fear people who think):
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.