In 1674 an anonymous pamphlet called The Women’s Petition Against Coffee warned that coffee led menfolk ‘to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous, puddle water’.
There are many tales of coffee reaching English shores via the South West of England, and indeed many of those involve the city of Plymouth. Coffee was aboard the ship Albemarle, wrecked off the coast of Cornwall in 1708, and there are accounts of coffee being smuggled in between 1716 and the mid 1730s.
Plymouth’s coffee links may even go back to the Mayflower, which sailed for America in possession of a wooden pestle and mortar used to make “coffee powder”.
The Plymouth Coffee House Company opened the Borough Arms in Bedford Street in 1878. Although it sounded like much like a pub, the gentlemen of the day would partake in no alcohol. Instead they found escape in marble tables, comfy chairs, newspapers and coffee, tea and cocoa urns. These houses were very much linked to the temperance movement to draw people away from pubs – and it worked!
The general public dubbed coffee houses "Penny Universities" as they became places for intellectual debate to discuss the politics of the day. They grew into popular hangouts for artists, writers, poets, lawyers, politicians and philosophers. One penny allowed benefit from the intellectual conversation that surrounded them.
Back in 1674, The Women’s Petition stated in no uncertain terms that ‘our countrymen’s palates are become as fanatical as their brains’, and ‘the continual sipping of this pitiful drink is enough to bewitch’.
Well! We thought we’d offer you some guidance to be bewitched…here are some great places close to King Point Marina where you can drink coffee and flex your intellectual muscles!
The Dock, Plymouth, open from 8.30am every day http://www.thedockplymouth.co.uk
Rock Salt Café, Coffee available from 10am (8am on Saturdays) http://www.rocksaltcafe.co.uk
The New Continental Hotel http://www.newcontinental.co.uk
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel www.dukeofcornwall.co.uk
For a guide to other great places to visit in the South West for Coffee, see this guide produced by Food Magazine: http://www.food-mag.co.uk/south-west-independent-coffee-guide/