“The café is not a place a man goes for a drink, but a place he goes to in order to drink in company” describes Pierre Bourdieu in Distinction (1984). It is a social consumption space, that enables certain types of interactions, and in many societies it is a major cultural institution.

The evolution of coffee shop as a socializing place differs greatly across cultures, yet some common themes seem to emerge. Though people were certainly gathering to share food, drink and company since the earliest days of humanity, the coffee house as we currently know it had its origins in seventeenth century Europe. A treasure of Europe’s colonial exploits, coffee fueled the establishment of local centers of political, social and cultural life. In England these coffee shops lead to the development of the daily newspaper and the home delivery of mail (prior to that all the news was gathered in such public spaces); whereas in Vienna coffee shops were a necessary public place to go and relax, obtain social contact.

In America coffee shops have long been a center of small town life, however, in recent years coffee shops have experienced a tremendous surge of popularity throughout the United States. This has been in part due to the push of major corporate coffee house chains, one of which is monstrous Starbucks, which currently owns about 7,000 shops, or about half of the total U.S. coffee shops.