Recently, when I was in a local caffe unico coffee house in Canterbury, I ordered my cappuccino and sat down with a slice of pecan pie to wait for my in-house coffee.
When the waiter brought it over, I overheard someone say:
“What even is that plate under the coffee for?”
And It got me thinking about the history of coffee and what the plate was actually used for.
Initially, the first search terms I used in Google were: “what is the coffee plate for?” I was hit by an informal stylish info-graphic giving me a fun and interesting fact on the history of the coffee plate.
Yep, you read that right. People used to drink their coffee from the plate! I did not think that was even possible...
To understand the reason behind this history of, why people used the coffee plate to drinkn coffee, I looked further back into a brief over-view of coffee trading between Italy and England.
Coffee is one of the world’s most loved and popular trading consumable, and before the Brits began the hype on tea, it was known as the most social drink across the world, especially in our beloved city Venice; “Let's go for a coffee” is a common saying - Funnily enough, although coffee samples were smuggled into the country through travellers, coffee didn’t reach England as a commercial trading product until the 17th century when the first coffee house in Oxford was opened, by a Turkish man.
When it did arrive in England, was a game-changer for the Brits. It was that popular, there was double the amount of coffee-houses in London than there is today.
Ask yourself this question: What do you expect a coffee shop back then to be like?
Well, coffee shops back then were more popular than nandos or your local pub. They were always seen as a scented and crowded place, which was loud, smokey and treasured by the people who adored the beverage. But it wasn’t only your everyday chatter-boxes who loved to spend their days drinking coffee, smoking and socialising in a crowded coffee house. Valued people like artists, bankers, politicians and wealthy citizens were seen to influence the coffee shops in making them as relaxing as they are today. Different coffee houses were represented as meeting places for significant types of people. For example, bankers in London would meet and exchange in particular coffee houses.
But anyway, back to the plate...
There is so much curiosity over a plate I must admit, however It’s a bit of a strange one this. There’s so much curiosity over a plate! - But why did it happen? how did they pour it? when did this all start? and what person in their right mind thought it was clever and practical to drink from a saucer??
Well turns out that person was George Washinton, who got the idea based on a metophorical theory of cooling something down. The saucer in those days, wasn't called just a saucer or a plate it was the "cooling-off saucer"
When you recieved your cup of coffee you would LITERALLY pour it onto the plate. If you were to drink coffee, in those times, you would find yourself in the “norm” whereas these days, people would stare at you as though you had some serious problems. There are so many accounts of people writing about their grandparents pouring the coffee into a deep saucer. Cups back then were would be deeper and larger than they are today, almost like a bowl.
Thinking about it, drinking coffee this was is really impractical - Like, how can you get the coffee from the cup into the dish without spilling it and burning yourself? Have you ever tried pouring coffee from a cup without doing those things? - It’s not easy, trust me.
So there we have an overview on the history of coffee and the plate that comes with it - I hope you found this useful when doing your own reasearch on the coffee plate and the history behind coffee trading in England. Make sure you keep up to date with us on Twitter and Facebook to get all the latest offers and promotions or start a chat with us!