A Random Thought About Coffee Shops

coffee-in-new-york-cityI have this rather strange vision of writers and other intellectuals using coffee shops to gather in and develop their creativity. If it worked for JK Rowling why shouldn’t it work for me?

I pop in to my local coffee shop a couple of times a week. I have my latte, take out my notebook and write. I must say that it’s all very enjoyable. To date my jottings have been just that – I’ve not started that best-selling novel yet, but I’m having fun.

I didn’t realise that coffee houses have been around for so long. Apparently the first one in Britain opened in 1650 in Oxford. During the 17th & 18th centuries there were more coffee shops in London than there are today.

Did you know that ‘tipping’ started in these coffee houses? If people wanted better service and a good seat they would put money in a jar labelled ‘To Insure Prompt Service’.

They were often called ‘penny universities’ – it was said that, in a coffee-house,  a man could ‘pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month’. A penny was the price of a coffee.

I’m not sure how many political activists or intellectuals are frequenting my coffee shop. While I am enjoying the activity I do get a little nervous in there. The problem is, I’m not sure what the etiquette is for coffee shops and would be writers? How long should I stay before I buy another coffee? Should I be taking up the whole sofa? Should I explain to the owner what I’m doing?

To try to find a solution to my dilemma I turned to Google! You would be surprised, or maybe not, at just how many blogs and websites There are covering the thorny issue of ‘coffee shop etiquette’. Here are just a few of the suggested rules that I came across:

  • Remember it is a business, it is someone’s livelihood, so buy something at least every hour.
  • Tip well.
  • Try not to be noisy – put your mobile on vibrate & cut out the start-up noise on your computer.
  • Take up only one chair (not the whole sofa!) and try & sit at the smallest table.

In other words try to be as inconspicuous as possible in the hope that no one will notice you’re there. Not like the 18th century coffee houses which were often crowded, smelly, noisy, feisty, smoke-filled places of creativity.

PS If ever you are passing, check out my favourite Coffee Shop – Coffee au Clay


  1. buffalostarmedicine

    I do this every morning…usually about an hour, but every once in a while, I order a breakfast and stay 2 hours. There’s a lot to be learned just listening to the other patron’s. Oh, and all the characters you can create from the people around you. Yes, the coffee shop – any place you go to write- can be a source of inspiration. Great blog here!


    1. Mike

      Like you I never used to drink coffee. I always had a cup of tea but coffee shops never seem to make good tea. So I now drink a half shot latte. Many of my friends and my wife call me a coffee wimp as what I’m drinking isn’t really a coffee, but I enjoy it and so take no notice. The coffee is such a small part of the reason I go there anyway!


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