Coffee has had a profound impact on history, from its introduction to Europe in the 17th century to its role in fueling industrialization and the slave trade. It has been a source of creativity, revolutions, new business ventures, literature, music and slavery. Coffee shops have served as meeting places for intellectuals, artists and radicals alike, and have been the birthplace of many plots and ideas. The introduction of coffee to Europe was followed by the development of coffee shops in Austria, Great Britain and France, which served as public places for people to meet and discuss the news of the day.
Coffee was also exported from Colombia's Pacific coast for the first time via the Panama Canal. Before there were ready supplies of drinking water, boiled beverages such as coffee or tea were the safest thing a person could drink. During the Enlightenment period, Voltaire, Rousseau and Isaac Newton could be found discussing philosophy while drinking coffee in coffee shops. In order to combat this “evil”, authorities imposed taxes on both coffee and coffee shops.
The Sultan even went so far as to disguise himself as a commoner and patrol Istanbul with a hundred-pound sword in search of coffee drinkers. Coffee almost literally fueled industrialization in Europe by helping to break the ties of sleep and wakefulness with natural cycles and replacing clock time, working hours and caffeine. Coffee has also had an impact on climate change; according to some estimates, 50 percent of land currently used for growing coffee plants will no longer be suitable for production by mid-century. Poets John Dryden, Alexander Pope and writer Jonathan Swift frequented Will's Coffee House in London.
The sale of coffee was closely related to the slave trade, which was not abolished until the 1850s in Colombia and the 1880s in Brazil. The price of coffee has been undeniably high, with its historical connections to a brutal production system and the exhausting work involved in growing and harvesting coffee that continues today. Coffee spread rapidly in the Near East; it was established in Mecca in 1511. European coffee shops also became popular meeting places for businessmen, some even giving rise to financial institutions that we still rely on today.