The Economics of Coffee Culture

In the United States 69% of adults drink at least two cups of coffee a day.  Humanity’s experience with coffee doesn’t begin and end with our morning thermos though – where there is culture, coffee culture isn’t far behind.

Heavily influencing European cultures, the Dutch Parisians, and Venetians in particular, the first coffeehouses as we understand them today began cropping up in the Netherlands. Offering more than just a place to sit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee, the coffeehouse offered a neutral location for socializing, discussion, innovation, and even dissent. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg describes the concept of the “third place” as a meeting place other than the home or workplace that remains accessible to all, regardless of status.

Third place locations often include other familiar settings like bars and public parks, even barber shops take on this role in some communities. What we get from the third place is a setting that’s focused on building and maintaining community, conversations, and important interactions. In 1792, the Tontine Coffee House in New York City served as the birthplace for the New York Stock Exchange; decades later and hundreds of miles away, the all-American cocktail the Sazerac was named for its coffee shop home, the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans.

In pop culture, we see the reflection on our need for a third place. Up until the early/mid-1990s, the third place of media choice was a bar; sitcom favorites like Cheers took place almost entirely within a bar. But as times changes, and coffee obsession began to take on a local mood, our favorite characters started spending their time at coffee shops instead.

Seinfeld and even Cheers spinoff series Frasier all had essential plot setting in their community coffeehouse. “Central Perk,” the coffee shop and favorite hangout spot from the massively popular TV sitcom Friends became so memorable to fans that Warner Bros had trademarked the rights to the name, logo, and facade signage and maintains these rights even 15 years after Friends had finished its run on TV. In 2014, WB hosted a temporary pop-up recreation of the Central Perk café, catering coffee to fans.

Looking back on our history with coffee can not only help us predict the trends of the future, but also offers us interesting and even relatable insights into the past. When we see coffee’s place in the movement of the world from global trade, political unrest, social defiance, and community building. Coffee is full of contradictions – and yet we still enjoy it every morning. Take a look at this infographic for more on a deeper look into coffee culture and how we can use it to look towards the future, espresso in hand.

Coffe Culture Infographic