The coffee houses in New Amsterdam played a vital role in the lives of New Yorkers. They were centers of business and local politics, providing a clean and convenient place for large groups of merchants and politicians to meet. The importance of the New York coffee house dates back to colonial times, and ever since, has continued to be a favorite gathering place
of New Yorkers.
The Early History of New York Coffee Houses
Believe it or not, the first European settlers actually had a mug of beer to start their day. Of course, this early morning alcohol consumption had nothing to do with “hair of the dog.” Because the early settlers didn’t have a clear water system in place, beer was actually a safer alternative for drinking. It was not until traditional British customs of tea and coffee drinking rooted themselves in the everyday lives of colonists, that coffee became the morning drink of New Yorkers.
The Kings Arm
It is believed by many historians that the first coffee house in the New World was a place in New York called the Kings Arm. Built on what is now Cedar Street in New York City, the Kings Arm stood two stories high and had a yellow brick facade imported from Holland. Patrons of the coffee house enjoyed its rooftop observatory with seating and a scenic view of the bay.
The Kings Arm set the standard for style and function of coffee houses throughout the Northeast, and it was not long after it opened that other coffee houses throughout New England followed suit.
The New York coffee house played an important role in the community and commerce. For instance, courtroom trials were held inside its long rooms, while business men held important meetings inside them. These particular functions distinguished the New York Coffee house from the taverns, which were used as stops for out of town travelers. Inside many of the old coffee houses people were hard at work building what would become one of the greatest financial and cultural cities in the world.
The Modern Day New York Coffee House
Today, New York coffee houses still have a vital role in the lives of New Yorkers. Any day of the week you can walk around Manhattan and find people hard at work inside them, writing papers or working on projects. They’ve also become gathering places for poets, artists, and comedians to showcase their talents, while patrons enjoy microbrews from skilled coffee artisans.
Although a lot has changed since the days of the Kings Arm, one thing is has stayed the same: New Yorkers still love their coffee. One could easily argue that coffee has been the life blood of New York City and has helped to fuel its citizens to keep up with the frantic pace of the city’s culture. So drink up New Yorkers, because coffee is in your blood.