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The Culture of Coffee, Coffeehouses and Cafes

Coffee is a global drink beloved by consumers for centuries. The way people consume and perceive coffee around the world varies, but with the help of international coffee cafes like Starbucks, modern-day coffee culture is becoming more standardized.

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Buddha-related Coffee Swag

Coffee competitions are also becoming a widespread cultural phenomenon. World Coffee Events hosts an annual coffee competition that changes locations every year. In Australia, people worldwide flock to Melbourne to participate in the World Brewers Cup Championship.

We'll cover more about coffee culture now, including the development of coffeehouses, coffee breaks, the amount of coffee consumed per country, prohibition, and Fair Trade.


Coffeehouses, which are termed "cafés" in modern-day terminology, have a long history, dating back to 1475 Constantinople, where the first coffeehouse opened. It was a hit, and coffeehouses exploded across the Ottoman Empire.

It wasn't until the 17th century when coffeehouses arrived in Europe. In England alone, more than 3,000 coffeehouses became integrated into English towns by the year 1675. Over in the United States, Boston received the first coffeehouse in 1676.

New technology changed the landscape of coffeehouses over the years. In 1938, the espresso machine made its debut in Milan, Italy. In 1952, the world's first espresso bar opened in Soho, London. Four years later, London had over 400 espresso bars. The espresso bar trend picked up in the United States around this time, beginning in San Francisco.

Since then, California made impressive strides in coffeehouse culture. In 1966, Peet's Coffee & Tea opened their first café in Berkeley. Dutch founder Alfred Peet prided himself on using higher quality coffee beans than other coffeehouses. He went on to become Starbucks' supplier.

It may come as a surprise to many that the first Starbucks café opened in 1971. Run by three founders, all of whom were college students, the Seattle location performed well enough where they were able to open up two more stores over the following two years. Eventually, Howard Schultz purchased the company with the goal of selling premade espresso coffee. Needless to say, it was a hit. Starbucks now operates over 25,000 coffee shops in more than 75 countries.

Even though many credit Starbucks, an American coffee chain, for making modern-day cafes trendy, South Korea has the largest concentration of coffee shops in the world, with over 10,000 stores.

With the demand for coffee shops around the globe, working at a café has become a viable career for many people. People who make coffee beverages enjoy the modern-day title of "barista." With the support of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Europe, baristas receive outstanding training and learn valuable career-oriented skills.

Coffee Breaks

Although the first thing people tend to do when they wake up is head to their coffee pot, early mornings aren't the only time for coffee. In the United States, coffee breaks are both trendy and accepted in work culture. Coffee breaks refer to a mid-morning rest.

Whereas tea breaks have a long history in European culture, the concept of coffee breaks made its way into American culture in 19th century Wisconsin. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Norwegian immigrants began the tradition. To this day, the annual Stoughton Coffee Break Festival takes place in Wisconsin to celebrate the coffee break.

Since then, coffee breaks became an integral part of government meetings—they even wrote it into union contracts during the war. In the early 1950s, a coffee ad campaign exploded with the slogan, "Give yourself a Coffee-Break." It may come as little surprise that a psychologist who ended up working with Maxwell House founded that phrase.

Depending on the business, a coffee break may involve a pause in a meeting to grab some coffee and chat about non-related work topics, or it might be something people do on their own when it's conducive to their schedule. Certain civil service jobs have a set time for a coffee break. Additionally, some business people schedule coffee breaks outside of the workplace when they want to meet with customers or contractors.

A coffee break could be as short as a few minutes to pour a cup of joe, but most commonly, they last 10 to 20 minutes. It's most common for coffee breaks to occur in the first third of a work shift, although it's acceptable for them to happen later as well.

Many businesses offer their employees free coffee with a pot available all day; it's completely acceptable for anyone to get up and take a short coffee break whenever they want. Some companies also set pastries or other goodies by the coffee pot.

Words evolve over time, and the term "coffee break" is no different. Although coffee break still can mean its literal definition, it's now widely accepted that it can refer to any break from work, regardless if you drink coffee during that time.

Country Consumption

Coffee is a staple drink globally, but many people are surprised to learn that Scandinavian countries consume the most amount of coffee per year. When you consider its cold weather and short hours in the winter, though, it makes sense.

Using data from World Population Review, we'll start by covering the top ten countries that consume the most amount of coffee per person. We'll then look at the same numbers by country consumption.

Top 10 Coffee Consumption Countries Per Person

  1. Finland: 26 pounds of coffee per person.
  2. Norway: 22 pounds of coffee per person.
  3. Iceland: 20 pounds of coffee per person.
  4. Denmark: 19 pounds of coffee per person.
  5. Netherlands: 19 pounds of coffee per person.
  6. Sweden: 18 pounds of coffee per person.
  7. Switzerland: 17 pounds of coffee per person.
  8. Belgium: 15 pounds of coffee per person.
  9. Luxembourg: 14 pounds of coffee per person.
  10. Canada: 14 pounds of coffee per person.

To put these numbers in perspective, 26 pounds of coffee per person per year equates to approximately four cups of coffee per day. Here's a fun fact: it's the law in Finland for employers to offer their employees two 10-minute coffee breaks during the workday.

Canada's presence on this list is impressive, given that the other countries are European. According to World Population Review, Tim Hortons gets the credit for this; it makes 75% of coffee sold in Canada.

The United States comes in at number twenty-five in the world for coffee consumption on a per-person basis. Americans consume approximately 9.7 pounds of coffee per person per year.

When it comes to the amount of coffee consumed per country, taking all its population into account, the numbers are less surprising: countries with large populations tend to have the highest numbers of coffee consumers. Let's take a look at the top ten.

Top 10 Coffee Consumption Countries by Total Population

  1. China
  2. India
  3. United States
  4. Indonesia
  5. Pakistan
  6. Brazil
  7. Nigeria
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Russia
  10. Mexico

World Population Review indicates that Vatican City is the smallest coffee consumer by population. It makes sense, given that Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.


Throughout history, religion is the base for coffee prohibition. Traditionally, coffee held spiritual meaning in Muslim culture since they used it during religious ceremonies. During a meeting in Mecca in 1511, scholars and jurists deemed coffee as a forbidden drink. They believed that it had intoxicating properties like alcohol—a concept that many people debated and doubted.

Thirty years passed before Muslim leaders lifted the coffee ban, although prohibition didn't end there. In the 1600s, the Sufis declared that coffee was a heretical substance, and they succeeded in repressing coffee production and consumption for a short time. For seventeen years up until 1640, Sultan Murad IV also prohibited coffee from being consumed in Ottoman Turkey.

Since coffee had early origins in Muslim culture, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians banned its followers from consuming it. The coffee prohibition lasted until 1889. Since then, Ethiopia has experienced great strides with its perception of coffee; it's now the Ethiopian national drink with people from all religions consuming it.

Have you ever thought of coffee as poisonous? If you lived in France in the 1600s, you might have. A group of French doctors began this claim. For anyone who has experienced modern-day French coffee culture, it goes without saying that this old belief no longer applies.

The Jewish religion also had its qualms about coffee. Concern over coffee being a legume meant that its followers couldn't consume coffee during Passover. However, with pushing from Maxwell House, in 1923, a rabbi declared that coffee is a berry, not a seed, and is okay to eat as a kosher food during Passover.

Although most coffee prohibition occurred hundreds of years ago, some modern-day religions continue to ban it. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views coffee as detrimental for physical and spiritual health. In fact, Mormons believe that all hot drinks are bad for the stomach, so they ban their followers from drinking both coffee and tea.

Additionally, the Seventh-day Adventist Church claims that their followers shouldn't consume coffee, tea, and any other substances containing caffeine. As a result of this, researchers love working with Mormons and Adventists since it gives them a sample group of people who don't consume caffeine.

Fair Trade

Despite coffee's global demand and the exorbitant price for certain coffee varieties, coffee farmers in developing countries tend to receive meager compensation for their products. For this reason, the Max Havelaar Foundation created the concept of Fair Trade. T

he idea behind Fair Trade is that it helps coffee farmers establish beneficial relationships with exporters, ensuring they receive fair compensation. Fair Trade also does the following:

  • Supports responsible companies
  • Empowers coffee farmers
  • Promotes environmental sustainability
  • Ensures equality regardless of gender, religion, etc.

Fair Trade employees work on the ground with coffee farmers, acting as liaisons between them and exporters. They also ensure that workers have safe working conditions and that the product passes health standards. Whenever a Fair Trade product sells, the importer pays an extra amount above the purchase price, which goes to the farmer's community. A committee run by locals then chooses what community development projects they want to use the money for.

According to Fair Trade USA, they're currently working with almost one million farmers across 45 countries. Since 1998, farmers and other workers across various sectors have received $740 million in exchange for their products. In the United States alone, over 60% of the population recognizes the Fair Trade seal—that's almost double what the statistics looked like in 2008.

Although Fair Trade had its start in the late 1980s, it wasn't until the 2000s when the concept started to get traction with coffee suppliers. In 2000, Starbucks began carrying Fair Trade coffee in its stores. By the end of 2009, all espresso drinks at Starbucks in the United Kingdom and Ireland were strictly Fair Trade and Shared Planet certified.

Studies show that consumers love the concept of Fair Trade; a Belgian study found that 46% of participants said they'd be okay with paying more for Fair Trade products. However, that same study found that most of those same people chose the non-Fair Trade product when picking between paying a 27% premium for Fair Trade coffee.

Other studies indicate that Fair Trade coffee products don't have an entirely positive impact on a coffee dependent village. The reason is that farmers who don't join Fair Trade say that they have less bargaining power with exporters.

That's a Coffee Wrap

With a history as rich as its flavor, coffee is a drink that people enjoy across the globe. From friendships to business meetings to dates, coffee helps people bond. And given how many coffee varieties there are, people well versed in coffee aren't likely to run out of conversation topics anytime soon.

Filed Under: coffee