Coffee is available just about everywhere. Prior to the year 1650, Coffee was really only found in the islamic countries in what was then called Arabia. In Europe the beverages of choice were beer and other fermented beverages collectively referred to as wine (regardless of whether it was made from grapes). These alcoholic beverages were drank at every meal by all members of the family, even children. Estimates put beer consumption at about 3 liters per person per day in during this time.
This reliance on alcohol created an overweight populous, and a little extra weight became the norm and seen as healthy. In the terms of the medicine of the day which was herbal based, healthy people were seen as “phlegmatic”. This term comes out of ancient Greek Galenic style of herbal medicine and refers to people who are described as puffy, slow, and soft in nature. Phlegmatic was seen as a retention of water and dampness in the body.
As coffee entered Europe after about 1650, it was of course first used by the wealthy and by Islamic traders who for religious reasons did not consume alcohol. Coffee started to become popular and it started to take the place of alcohol at meals. As a result people were more sober, and coffee was promoted by herbalists as medicinal, especially for treating people who were drunk.
People who drank coffee found it gave them energy and a clarity of thought that they did not have when drinking alcohol. The decrease in calories compared to beer and “wine” resulted in people becoming less “phlegmatic”, and thus described as “drying out”. Herbalists of the day noticed this and started questioning what was a healthy state of being. It is also because of this terminology that we came to associate the word “dry” with nonalcoholic.
This shift in the nature of how people looked and acted forever changed how European Herbalists treated patients. Coffee became a health drink and alcohol lost some of its status as the proper daily beverage. Medicine and religion of the day started to view alcohol as damaging to the body. Coffee became the drink of health. This change in society also affected business.
Drinking establishments serving coffee sprang up to serve the popular demand. Businessmen started to conduct business over coffee in the coffee houses. Sailors became frequent patrons of coffee houses. Coffee houses provided a place where sailors could catch up on local gossip and news that they missed while out to sea. Traders, investors and insurance brokers looking to do business with sailors also came to coffee houses to conduct business with the sailors in a convenient location.
One such Coffee house that became a favorite of sailors was a place in London England owned by Edward Lloyd. Lloyds became a center of shipping business. Edward Lloyd eventually got involved in the shipping business as well as serving coffee. Eventually Lloyds coffee house started brokering insurance for shipping companies. Lloyds is actually still in business. They no longer sell coffee, but are known world wide as the insurance company Lloyd’s of London. A business that got its start because of the herbal health drink; coffee.