18th Century Starbucks Found In Disused Cellar!
If you ever pondered over the origins of your private label coffee, you’re sure to be interested to learn that an incredibly old coffee shop has been discovered in a disused cellar at the University of Cambridge.
An archaeological survey helped to identify the site, with researchers publishing details of what is being deemed the most significant collection of artefacts from one of the earliest coffee shops found in the UK. The shop itself was called Clapham’s Coffee House and was housed on land now owned by St John’s College, Cambridge.
The cellar itself was backfilled with all sorts of interesting and unwanted items, most likely at some point in the 1770s. The team of researchers from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit – part of the Department of Archaeology at the university – uncovered over 500 objects, many of which were very well preserved.
These included serving dishes, an amazing 38 teapots, animal and fish bones, clay pipes and drinking vessels for coffee, tea and chocolate. Based on these finds, the team was able to put together an idea of how customers will have spent their time at Clapham’s, drinking coffee, ale and wine, and eating all sorts of tasty food like pastry-based snacks, meat and seafood. Feet bones from immature cattle were also discovered, as were 18 jelly glasses, so researchers concluded that calf’s foot jelly – a popular dish from the time – was probably on the menu.
Apparently, Clapham’s was owned by William and Jane Clapham, with the coffee shop/inn popular with students and locals alike. It’s thought that the cellar was backfilled when Jane retired at the end of the 1770s after her husband died.
Interestingly, although Clapham’s was a coffee shop it seems that tea was the preferred drink for those in Cambridge in the 18th century – there were nearly three times as many tea bowls as coffee cans or cups discovered!
The Archaeological Unit’s Craig Cessford commented: “Coffee houses were important social centres during the 18th century, but relatively few assemblages of archaeological evidence have been recovered and this is the first time that we have been able to study one in such depth.
“In many respects, the activities at Clapham’s barely differed from contemporary inns. It seems that coffeehouses weren’t completely different establishments as they are now – they were perhaps at the genteel end of a spectrum that ran from alehouse to coffeehouse.”
In the 17th and 18th centuries, coffeehouses in England were what the pub is now to so many of us. They served as social hotspots where men could come together to chat and do business – and no doubt it was the fact that alcohol wasn’t on the menu that meant people were better able to converse more seriously than they might do down their local public house.
But, in the spirit of university competition, it’s interesting to note that the first English city to establish a real coffeehouse was actually Oxford and not Cambridge! It was set up in 1650, after which they started popping up in London and elsewhere.