When Pasqua Rosee brought his vile tasting brown liquid to the streets of London, in the area near Bank, it was going to change the city forever! If you care to step through time and take a walk in 17th Century London, Unreal City Audio's founder, Dr Matthew Green, has a magical story to tell you.
The Coffee House Tour, offers a brilliant insight into 17th Century London society and how coffee transformed business in London forever. Brewed with ground coffee beans, mustard (sugar was too expensive a sweetener) and egg shells, most likely to make it look more exotic and strange than to provide additional flavour, what is now a daily pleasure for most of us had groundbreaking effects on London citizens as I came to find out. For the first time in ages, men started sobering up from all the daily watered down ale they normally drank and business took off!
Dr Green takes us on a tour of significant locations around the Bank area, sites of 17th and 18th century coffee houses and analyses topics ranging from the layout and behaviour of the patrons of coffee houses to the effect they had on the society that embraced the concept and made them popular.
With the help of Pasqua himself (well, close enough anyway) the empty streets of Bank on an early Saturday morning are filled with the sound of 'the Turk' advertising his magical elixir to approaching customers, reading excerpts from The Men's Answer To The Women's Petition Against Coffee (London, 1674), and more.
For those of you who have not read the petition, here's the main quote you need to know: Coffee collects and settles the Spirits, makes the erection more Vigorous, the Ejaculation more full, adds a spiritualescency to the Sperme, and renders it more firm and suitable to the Gusto of the womb, and proportionate to the ardours and expectation too, of the female Paramour. Basically, coffee is good for sex.
Dr Green does a magnificent job setting the scene of what a 17th century coffee house would look like on the inside and how its patrons behaved typically; this communal spirit of conversation and exchanging information has long since ceased and disappeared from modern day cafes.
The world of the 17th and 18th century coffee houses can only be seen in old iron signs and blue plaques commemorating what once was but coffee itself has survived the test of time and lucky for us now tastes so much better. Don't take my word for it, a sip of the coffee you will try at the start of the tour is enough to convince you (unless you normally drink black turkish coffee, in which case it was very close to that but with mustard and eggshells, which Dr Green does not include).
At the end of the tour Dr Green poses a question to us in the modern era, asking us to consider why we no longer use modern coffeehouses as a space where we can interact and encourages us to talk to a stranger next time we are in one; ask for some new information and be more social. It is worth a shot.
You can find more info on future Coffee House tours here; there is one every month. If you are busy and can not make it, there is the option to download an audio tour version of it, featuring more actors and cinematic sounds that create an immersive aural experience, which you can have at your own time.
I thoroughly recommend this tour to anyone who loves London, history or coffee. If you love all three then it is an absolute must. Dr Green manages to combine his passion for the topic, extensive knowledge and engaging personality to create what is probably the closest to time travel a tour can offer, making it a unique London experience that should not be missed.