‘There’s this myth that coffee shops were once egalitarian spaces’ … Look Mum No Hands in Clerkenwell, London. Photograph: Antonio Olmos
Coffee shops take flak for being markers of gentrification. But they might not be so different now from the social and intellectual hubs of 350 years ago
From Rosie Spinks at The Guardian / 04.08.2016
The fact that the Proud East is one of about five similar cafes within a five-minute walk in this Dalston neighbourhood brings to mind the fact that, in the past decade or so, the words: “There are a lot of coffee shops opening up around there” has become a precursor for: “There goes the neighbourhood.”
But if Green – who as well as being a regular is also a coffee historian, earned his PhD from Oxford and leads historical coffee tours around London – had his way, coffee houses like the Proud East would help facilitate something entirely different than gentrification: meaningful interaction.
One can almost imagine Green walking into a late 17th-century London coffee house and uttering the salutation that, he says, was de rigueur: “What news have you?” Today, it’s fair to say that’s been replaced by a more modern (and loathed) version: “What’s the WiFi password?”