From coffee to cafe - Cutlery in a tin can on a wooden table in a cafe setting with text 'Cafe' The word ‘cafe’ comes from the word ‘coffee’. The two words sound somewhat similar – just the ‘a’ and the ‘o’ between them – so it’s not hard to believe they are connected.

But to know how exactly we got from coffee to cafe, we have to take a journey that starts in Africa.

Coffee is now grown all over the world – from Colombia in South America to Bali in Indonesia – and all points in between.

That’s nowadays, but the coffee tree was originally native to the Horn of Africa in the highlands of Ethiopia.

In the 1600s coffee made its way from Africa and the Middle East along the trade routes and arrived in Europe, by way of Egypt and Turkey. And it found a home into the restaurants of Venice.

The earliest records of coffee houses in Europe – that is, establishments specifically for people to sit and drink coffee – date from the 1860s in Marseilles.

Those coffee houses were places where men could drink and enjoy conversation. Coffee was expensive and exotic, so coffee drinking was a pursuit of the well-bred man. And when I say men, it was specifically men. That is, men could go there, but not women.

It wasn’t until the advent of tea houses that women could be seen (though always in the company of other women, and not alone of course) in such places.

To the minds of polite society of the day, tea houses and coffee houses were only a polite version of a public house. It took decades before women were to be seen there on their own without their husbands.

And now we come to the word ‘cafe’.

The first recorded use of the word was in the 1770s. It meant a light meal at which coffee is served. And the word followed the coffee houses to Europe so that in the late 1800s one could have a cafe in a coffee house in the cities of Europe.

From ‘cafe’ meaning a meal, it was a short step to the name of the establishment itself.

So there we are, from coffee to cafe in a few centuries, several countries, and two or three continents.

A Good Cafe

I am not a fan of fancy restaurants where the manner of dining seems more important (or at least as important) as the food itself.

No, I prefer cafes or restaurants where the decor is simple and unpretentious and the food is what counts.

The Siren Call Of Starbucks

Why is Starbucks so popular? It’s not the coffee alone, surely. In my view it is the opportunity to step off the street and into a place that says that life is not all drudgery, but rather that there is some adventure in it.

I rarely pass a Starbucks without at least part of me considering whether I might go in.

It is also the reason why a dirty toilet in a Starbucks is so unpleasant: It is almost a betrayal of the promise.

Is There A Good Cafe Near Me

Is there a good cafe near where I live? If there isn’t, then there is always Starbucks, but nicer if there is an independent cafe that suits me.

What suits me will be different to what suits someone else. That’s good. I have often thought there is a lot of wisdom in the saying that it takes all sorts to make a world. It truly does.

I am put off by places that smell of frying. And dirty places, or places that seem like they want to hook you in with a promise that will not be fulfilled.

If there is food, I like something light and interesting, something the cook has put together, and not just a soggy cheese and tomato sandwich.

Scrambled egg on sourdough toast, for example: That sounds good. And I like to feel comfortable. So chairs, and not benches or stools. And decor that perks me up.

That is why the cutlery stuck in a tin devoid of its label sang out ‘Welcome!’ when I sat down in cafe Milk (yes, that’s the name of the cafe) in Edinburgh and took this photograph.

For the ‘Cafe’ greeting card, follow this link: Cafe