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Social progress and coffee.

Social progress and coffee

It is not surprising, when we look at a major commodity, such as coffee, that we tend to overlook the role it plays in society. Always under scrutiny by one group or another, coffee's true assets tend to be obscured by strings of medical reports telling us whether we should or should not drink the beverage. Yet a point which is never emphasized enough, and one that we in the industry should capitalize on, is that this single beverage has always been a crucial factor in the advancement of society. Throughout the ages coffee has had the distinct power to bring people together and to set the stage for an exchange of ideas. This is an important quality which should stand out in people's minds when they think about coffee.

The "Coffee Achievers" campaign launched in the early 80's is appropriate in our day and age when expressing one's individuality is always encouraged. Since the 70's and the days of "ME'ism," especially North Americans have always wanted a drink which would help them get ahead. We must stress, however, that it is also instrumental in the advancement of the entire culture because it brings people together and encourages discussion, whether it is in coffeehouses, on campuses, at home, at work, or anywhere else. Coffee stimulates us not only physically but intellectually as well; this is a quality which few other beverages can boast. Alcohol, for example, while helping us to lose our inhibitions and have a "good time," slows down the body's mental processes. People are less likely to discuss matters of importance over a drink as they would with coffee.

Ever since coffee's beginnings, we can clearly see that the coffee-houses have been, in a very major way, responsible for many of the ideas and movements which would shape our history. A place where people from all professions and walks of life could meet to discuss common interests. Coffeehouses helped to spread the popularity of the beverage to the point where it became not only a symbol of hospitality, but also a symbol of a medium for the exchange of ideas. Countless legends and stories have been written about the events which took place in coffeehouses, and how kings and heads of state would attempt to shut down these houses only to retract their decision for fear of causing too big an uproar by the people. One Boston coffeehouse, the Green Dragon, was dubbed, by Daniel Webster, the headquarters of the American Revolution. It is said that the Boston tea party was planned in the Green Dragon where John Adams, Paul Revere and other patriots of the revolution met for coffee and political discussion. When the revolt finally came, it was in another Boston coffeehouse, the Bunch of Grapes, that the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public.

The houses were not only politcial hotbeds but a haven for discussions on a variety of subjects. In fact, in London, they were coined as "penny universities." Many financial institutions got their start in coffee houses. As it is well known, Lloyds of London would meet at the Edward Lloyds coffeehouse in London, to see which vessels would be sailing and which ones they could insure. The coffeehouses would also contribute to the progress of commerce and trade. Many believe that this is where our commodities or futures markets were born.

Some of the most important movements in the arts also emerged from coffeehouses. The French Impressionists, for example, would meet to paint and to share views in cafes. Being in Canada, we know that members of the Group of Seven, the famous Canadian painters attributed with having pioneered contemporary Canada art, would hold important meetings over a cup of coffee, as art schools were scarce at this time.

Today, in North America, coffee houses are extremely popular and they are spreading at a tremendous speed. In Canada, and especially in cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, a stroll down any downtown street is enough to see that this is clearly the case. People can be seen enjoying themselves over a cup of coffee at the indoor/outdoor cafes which exist at almost evry other street corner. It is hard to believe that not even 25 years ago, it was hard to find any.

Today, as in the past, coffeehouses are important because they are an excellent promoter of the product. We realize that the same benefits of the beverage can be enjoyed elsewhere, and to hear people say "let's get together over a cup of coffee," demonstrates that coffee's values are transferable to just about anywhere. On campuses across Canada, coffee seems to be gaining popularity among the young, who hail it as an ideal drink to have when writing papers or working on group projects. With a growing tendency towards group-style management today in North American business, coffee is also strong in the workplace. coordination and group thinking are essential and no conference or meeting would be complete without a good cup of coffee being served. The coffee service segment has made a huge contribution to the industry by making a quick and quality cup of coffee easily accessible to everyone.

Not to be underestimated is the role which coffee plays in the household.

60% Coffee consumed at home

When we consider that roughly 60 percent of all coffee in Canada is consumed at home, it becomes evident that we must also stress the importance of coffee as a stimulant and a beverage which brings people to reunite in the home. Again, the idea that the beverage is important when entertaining guests and inviting group discussion at home should be clearly associated with the image of coffee. Promoting such a quality may seem rather difficult. So much attention is given, these days, to the effects that coffee might have on the body. Moreover, with the need for bold and catchy phrases and pictures in the mass media, getting an idea such as this across to people might appear to be an awkward task. Yet promoting the general idea of group or social progress and coffee is something which our associations can do. Using generic advertising, as is the trend with other commodities now, we should be able to emphasize not only the physical attributes of coffee, but also its social benefits. It is a delicious and stimulating drink which helps us "get ahead individually and also as a group." Rarely, if ever do we see any documentaries on television or in publications explaining the historic importance throughout civilization of a beverage which has become such an integral part of our daily lives. It would be nice if a famous commentator would make a television program depicting coffee in such a way.

In a rapidly changing society such as our own, and perhaps with important newcomers into the market, this new decade from the eastern block, we should focus the idea of social progress and coffee towards the future. If past trends in coffee are any indication of what the future holds for us, coffee has got a long and exciting road ahead of it.

PHOTO : The coffee houses of past and present all serve the need for companionship and discussion.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:role of coffee and coffeehouses in social change
Author:Douek, Philip
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Davies hails U.S. Tea Association committees; reviews international tea market scene.
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