Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Oxford, England

Oxford, England

Coordinates: 51 46 N 1 15 W

Population: 149,800 (2005 est.)

Coffee and college; in many ways, an ideal pairing. How many pre-dawn epiphanies or witching hour discoveries can be at least indirectly attributed to the stimulating properties of the ubiquitous beverage? It’s fitting then, that the first European coffeehouse can be traced back to the seventeenth century, at Oxford University. In 1650, an entrepreneurial (and prescient too, coffee is now the second most valuable legal commodity on Earth) Turkish Jew served the first cups of the dark drink to an academically inclined populace living between the Cherwell and Thames Rivers. By this point in time, it was already popular throughout the Ottoman Empire, and may in fact have reached Italy before the merchant, whose name was Jacob, had his initial Northern European customers hooked. Starbucks, which began in Seattle, now has three locations in Oxford’s city center.
A great link to a map of 17th century Oxford.

Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

Recent Comments

  1. John

    Coffee drinking in Oxford even predates 1650. Steven Runciman says the Cretan Nathaniel Conopius, Protosyncellus of Patriarch Cyril and later Archbishop of Smyrna, was the first to drink coffee in Oxford which would be sometime before the Puritans expelled him in 1647.

    Runciman quotes Anthony à Wood, who appears to be the source for the Jacob information anyway, speaking about Conopius: “While he continued in Balliol College he made the drink for his own use called coffee, and usually drank it every morning, being the first, so the ancients of that house have informed me, that was ever drunk in Oxon.”

    And John Evelyn at Balliol says: “He was the first I ever saw drink coffee which custom came not into England till some thirty years after.”

    Evelyn’s diary on this appears to be dated 1637 which would have Conopius drinking coffee in Oxford long before Jacob opened his shop.

    Jacob’s shop incidentally was “at the Angel in the Parish of St. Peter, East Oxford.”

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