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The socio-cultural history of the Pousse Café. Part 4: French coffee houses

Titelbild - französische Kaffeehäuser

Now that we have taken a closer look at the arrival of coffee in Paris and Europe, in the next part of this series we will turn our attention to French coffee houses and their social significance.

Coffee houses in Paris

It is now time to take a closer look at the coffee houses, as they played an important role. We have already talked briefly about their beginnings. The first coffee houses were opened in Europe from the middle of the 17th century and they spread quickly.

In 1700, there are said to have been around 500 coffee houses in England. [12] [13] By 1715, there were around 300 coffee houses in Paris. [10-115] [11-363] Under Louis XV, who was King of France from 1715 to 1774, [8] their number rose to around 600. By the end of the 18th century, there were over 800. Around 1800, the Parisian Archbishop Jean-Baptiste de Belloy invented the first coffee machine with a percolation system, called ‘La Débelloire’, and the number of coffee houses continued to rise. By 1830 there were already more than 3000. [7] [9-94] [15-35] [19]

It is said that the first coffee houses were essentially oriental-style coffee houses that catered to the poorer sections of the population and foreigners. Noblemen were not to be seen there. This only changed when French merchants set up spacious, elegant apartments decorated with tapestries, large mirrors, pictures, marble tables, candlesticks and magnificent chandeliers, where coffee, tea, chocolate and other refreshments were served. [9-93] Let us leave this statement as it stands. But we have our doubts. It seems more likely that the aristocracy and wealthy bourgeoisie also frequented the coffee houses from the outset, and that they were by no means just dives for the lower classes – coffee was far too expensive for that. Let everyone form their own opinion on this.

And so it is not surprising that other authors take a different view. The question of the social background of visitors to a coffee house is difficult to answer, as the surviving sources provide no information. The public on the promenades and in the cafés was mixed. There were members of the aristocracy and day laborers. Master craftsmen, shopkeepers and members of the elite probably made up half of the visitors to a coffee house. Soldiers, servants and day laborers each made up around 10 percent. The daily discussants in the promenades were often people who were able to lead a modest life from their wealth, for example former officers or office workers. There were also small craftsmen and workers. [10-115]

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Parisian café was really just a coffee house; but as patrons began to spend more and more time there, owners also offered other drinks and food to keep their patrons coming back. [9-102]

Not only were new drinks from overseas served in the coffee houses, but also liqueurs, brandy and beer. People got drunk there more often than in wine bars. In winter, the well-heated coffee houses, which also served meals, offered the opportunity to spend the whole day there. [10-115]

To make the stay even more attractive, so-called ‘cafés concerts’ were created in France, in which entertainment in the form of songs, monologues, dances, short plays and farces were presented to the middle and lower middle classes. They were something like folk vaudevilles with catering. The performances were free, but you had to pay for food and drink. The first ‘cafés concerts’ emerged at the beginning of the 19th century in Lyon and Marseille, were very successful and quickly spread across the country. In 1850, there were around 200 of them in Paris alone. Many of these cafés were located in the open air along the Champs-Élysées. [4] [9-98]

Some cafés were particularly popular and famous. Let’s take a brief look at two of them: the ‘Café Procope’ and the ‘Café de la Régence’.

The ‘Café Procope’

The nobleman Procopio dei Coltelli, also known in France as François Procope, came to Paris from Florence or Palermo. [6] [9-93]

Before he opened his coffee house, François Procope also sold coffee at the Saint-Germain fair and delighted the best company with its good quality. [15-30] [15-31] He left the fair to open a store in the Rue de Touron. [16-90]

He married in Paris in 1675 and was already listed in the registers as a shopkeeper. In 1676, before his naturalization, he became one of the limonadiers and distillers in Paris. [16-90]

A limonadier was originally a producer of lemonade, and in a broader sense also a seller of lemonade and other beverages, especially alcoholic drinks. [20] In the baptismal records of his daughters, he is listed as a distiller in 1677 and as a master distiller in 1677 and 1678. [16-90]

In 1686, he moved to the Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain and founded the store that would become famous in the following centuries as the ‘Café Procope’. [6] [16-90] Some say this happened in 1689. [9-93] [15-30] [15-31] [17-56]

Café Procope.
Café Procope. [31]

As a limonadier, he held a royal license to sell spices, ice cream, lemonade and other soft drinks. He also served coffee. His coffee house attracted a large and prestigious clientele. It was a great success and led to coffee houses becoming an institution in Paris. As a distiller, he not only served liqueurs, but also other alcoholic drinks, including wines. There was not only candied fruit, but also another novelty: ice cream. There was a variety of fruit and flower ice creams, and the ‘ice cream café’, the ‘café glacier’, was established. Bourgeois ladies often drove up in carriages, not only here but also to other famous coffee houses, to have coffee brought to them on a silver tray. The café was not only a meeting place for artists, but also a place of political exchange. Due to its location directly opposite the ‘Comédie Française’, the ‘Café Procope’ became a meeting place for many famous actors, authors, playwrights and musicians of the 18th century. It was here that the French Enlightenment developed. Its guests included Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo. The ‘Café Procope’ also played a role in the French Revolution. In 1789, personalities such as Jean Paul Marat, Maximilien de Robespierre, Georges Danton, Jacques-René Hébert and Camille Desmoulins met there at the tables over coffee and strong drinks to discuss the current situation. Napoleon Bonaparte was also present. [6] [9-94] [9-98] [15-30] [15-31] [15-33] [16-90] [16-91] [17-56]

The Palais Royal and the ‘Café de la Régence’

Promenade at the Palays Royal, 1787.
Promenade at the Palays Royal, 1787. [32]

The Palais Royal is located about 150 meters north of the Louvre. The Galerie de Bois belonging to the palace was built between 1781 and 1784 around the palace garden and comprised around 60 houses with arcades, which housed apartments, restaurants and entertainment facilities. This is where Parisian nightlife was concentrated and the promenade was famous throughout Europe because the most beautiful girls and women from all classes prostituted themselves there and you could also meet members of the high nobility. As the complex belonged to the Duke of Orléans, the police had no access to it and so there was a certain freedom of assembly. [2]

Café de la Régence, 1874.
Café de la Régence, 1874. [33]

The ‘Café de la Régence’ was also located there and was opened as early as 1681 under the name ‘Café de la Place du Palais Royal’ in Paris. From 1740, it served as a meeting place for the chess players of Paris, who had previously met in the ‘Café Procope’. It was mainly because of these chess players that the ‘Café de la Régence’ became famous. [5] [15-34] [15-35] Playing chess in a coffee house had already been common in oriental coffee houses. In addition to chess, people also played billiards in coffee houses, which had previously been reserved for the nobility. [4]

The ‘Café de la Régence’ was a place where the nobility met after paying court to the regent. Many other important personalities also met there. [9-96] One example is Diderot, who received nine sous a day from his wife to drink coffee there. He also worked on his Encyclopedia here. [9-98]

However, not only the ‘Café de la Régence’, but also many other coffee houses were located directly on, or rather in, the Palais Royal, “in that garden spot of beauty, enclosed on three sides by three tiers of galleries“, surrounded by numerous other stores,  [9-96] because the Palais Royal was a popular meeting place for society.

Denis Diderot gives us a first impression of the events at the Palace-Royal. He begins his novel ‘Le Neveu de Rameau’ (‘Rameau’s Nephew’), which was written between 1761 and 1774, [21] with the words: “Come rain or shine, it’s my habit to go for a walk in the Palais-Royal at five o’clock in the evening. I’m always alone, dreaming on the d’Argenson bench. I talk to myself about politics, love, taste or philosophy; I abandon my mind to all its libertinism; I leave it master to follow the first wise or foolish idea that presents itself, … as we see, in the allée de Foi, our dissolute jeones walk in the footsteps of a stale-looking courtesan, with a laughing face, a keen eye, a snub nose, leaving this one for another, attacking them all and sticking to none. My thoughts are my whores. If the weather is too cold or too rainy, I take refuge in the Café de la Régence. There, I amuse myself with chess. Paris is the place of the world, and the café de la Régence is the place in Paris where this game is best played;[23-1]

Œuvres inédites de Diderot. Le neveu de Rameau. Voyage de Hollande. 1821, page 1.
Œuvres inédites de Diderot. Le neveu de Rameau. Voyage de Hollande. 1821, page 1. [23-1]

“Qu’il fasse beau, qu’il fasse laid, c’est mon habitude d’aller sur les cinq heures du soir me promener au Palais-Royal. C’est moi qu’on voit toujours seul, rêvant sur le banc d’Argenson. Je m’entretiens avec moi-même de politique, d’amour, de goût ou de philosophie; j’abandonne mon esprit à tout son libertinage; je le laisse maître de suivre la première idée sage ou folle qui se présente, … comme on voit, dans l’allée de Foi, nos jeones dissolus marcher sur les pas d’une courtisane à l’air éventé, au visage riant, à l’œil vif, au nez retroussé, quitter celle-ci pour une autre, lés attaquant toutes et ne s’attachant à aucune. Mes pensées ce sont mes catins. Si le temps est trop froid ou trop pluvieux, je me réfugie au café de la Régence. Là, je m’amuse à voir jouer aux échecs. Paris est l’endroit du monde , et le café de la café de la Régence est l’endroit de Paris où l’on joue le mieux à ce jeu;” [23-1]

Even many decades later, the situation at the Palais Royal does not seem to have been much different. A report on a trip undertaken in 1825 describes the situation at the Palais Royal as follows: “The Palais Royal was built by Cardinal Richelieu and given to King Louis XIV, who gave it to Duke Philip of Orleans, whose great-grandson still owns it. 3 gates open the entrance; the main entrance forms the first courtyard, which is manned by a double guard; through the arch of the Duke’s palace you enter the second courtyard, and through the wooden boutiques (galerie des bois) into the large garden. This is not a garden in the proper sense of the word, but an oblong quadrangle of a few acres, with a few stunted trees and shrubs, but remarkable for its surroundings, and therefore the meeting-place of all idlers; for on three sides of it, under the palace, there are latticed arcades, behind which are the stores and coffee-houses, which afford the most charming sight, especially in the evening when the lights are on. The abundance and variety of what is on display for sale here provides the most pleasant entertainment for foreigners and locals alike; but since it is the custom to buy here, you pay the highest prices for everything. Incidentally, the scenes here also change according to the time of day. Some stores open early, i.e. at 8 o’clock in the summer, the fruit merchants daintily display the abundance of their delicious fruit; the small traders, money changers, quacks and pomadiers spread out their wares on tables, and the attendants in the arcades clear away the dirty remains of the previous day. Tailors and shoemakers’ stores are particularly distinguished by the large and beautifully arranged number of products of their artistry; there, skirts, vests and leggings hang buttoned one on top of the other; here, boots and shoes float in large crystal vases filled with water to prove their water-resistant qualities; hats and caps in crystal buckets also demonstrate their waterproofness. Dentists parade with rows and rows of teeth of all kinds pinned to black velvet; corn surgeons with the corns they have pulled out, artfully and drapery-like displayed on a white atlas background &c. After 10 o’clock, the cafés fill up with locals and strangers; people read, listen and announce the news of the day. Some people walking or sitting by the fountain in the garden are startled by the small firecracker set up on the column-like base on one side of the large flowerbed that fills the middle of the garden. At 12 o’clock, the sun’s rays fall on a burning glass placed above the firing hole of the firecracker, thus marking the noon hour by firing the small noise cannon. The dinner time around 5 o’clock brings large crowds from time to time, as you can dine with the restaurateurs for the highest and lowest price. The rooms fill up even more after the usually short meal, where everyone, especially in the beautiful Rotonda (a friendly pavilion open on all sides), takes his demitasse and his glass of liqueur, called chasse-café. The palace is at its liveliest when everything is lit up in the evening and the shows have finished. Then people of all classes and ages crowd around, and the noble and middle classes of the prostitutes, many of whom occupy the upper rooms and attics, do their mischief. At midnight, the doors of the iron bars that connect the arcades to the garden are closed, and the restless bustle gradually subsides.[1-90] [1-91] [1-92]

Christ. Gottfr. Dan. Stein: Reise über Aachen, Brüssel nach Paris. 1828, page 90-92.
Christ. Gottfr. Dan. Stein: Reise über Aachen, Brüssel nach Paris. 1828, page 90-92. [1-90] [1-91] [1-92]

– “Das Palais Royal wurde vom Cardinal Richelieu erbaut und dem König Ludwig XIV. geschenkt, der es dem Herzog Philipp von Orleans abgab, dessen Urenkel es noch besitzt. 3 Thore öffnen den Zugang; die Haupteinfahrt bildet den ersten, mit doppelter Wache besetzten Hof; durch den Bogen des Palastes des Herzogs gelangt man in den 2ten Hof, und durch die hölzernen Boutiken (galerie des bois) in den großen Garten. Dies ist kein Garten im eigentlichen Sinne des Wortes, sondern ein längliches Viereck von wenigen Morgen, mit einigen verkrüppelten Bäumen und Gesträuchen, aber durch die Umgebung merkwürdig und daher Versammlungsort aller Müßiggänger; denn auf 3 Seiten derselben laufen unter dem Palast vergitterte Bogengänge herum, hinter denen die Kaufladen und Kaffeehäuser sich befinden, die besonders des Abends bei Erleuchtung den bezauberndsten Anblick gewähren. Die Fülle und Mannichfaltigkeit dessen was hier zum Kauf ausgestellt ist, gewährt Fremden und Einheimischen die angenehmste Unterhaltung; aber da es nun einmal zum Ton gehört, hier zu kaufen, so bezahlt man auch für Alles die höchsten Preise. Uebrigens wechseln auch hier die Scenen nach den Tageszeiten. Schon früh, d. i. im Sommer um 8 Uhr, werden manche Laden geöffnet, die Obsthändlerinnen stellen die reiche Fülle ihrer köstlichen Früchte zierlich auf; die Kleinhändler, Geldwechsler, Quacksalber und Pomadiers breiten ihre Waaren auf Tischen aus, und die Aufwärter in den Arkaden schaffen die schmutzigen Überreste des vorigen Tages bei Seite. Schneider und Schuhmacherladen zeichnen sich besonders durch die große und schön geordnete Zahl der Producte ihres Kunstfleißes aus; dort hängen Röcke, Westen und Beinkleider in einander geknöpft über einander; hier schwimmen Stiefeln und Schuhe in großen, mit Wasser gefüllten Krystallvasen, um ihre dem Wasser unangreifbare Eigenschaft zu bewähren; auch Hüte und Mützen in Krystalleimern zeigen ihre Wasserdichtheit. Zahnärzte paradieren mit reihenweise und auf schwarzen Sammt gehefteten Zähnen aller Arten; Hühneraugenoperateure mit den von ihnen ausgezogenen Hühneraugen, die auf weißem Atlasgrund kunstvoll und draperienartig ausgestellt sind &c. Nach 10 Uhr füllen sich die Cafés mit Einheimischen und Fremden; man liest, hört und verkündigt die Tagesneuigkeiten. Einen kleinen Schrecken verursacht manchem, an dem Springbrunnen im Garten Spazierenden oder Sitzenden der kleine Böller, der auf dem säulenartigen Fußgestelle an der einen Seite des, die Mitte des Gartens ausfüllenden großen Blumenbeets aufgerichtet ist. Um 12 Uhr fällt der Strahl der Sonne auf ein über dem Zündloch des Böllers angebrachtes Brennglas, und bezeichnet so durch das Abfeuern der kleinen Lärmkanone die Mittagsstunde. Die Zeit des Diner gegen 5 Uhr führt große Menschenmassen ab und zu, da man bei den Restaurateurs um den höchsten und niedrigsten Preis speisen kann. Mehr noch füllen sich die Räume nach der meist kurzen Mahlzeit, wo Jedermann, besonders in der schönen Rotonda (einem freundlichen, von allen Seiten offenen Pavillion), seine Demitasse und sein Gläschen Liqueur, chasse-café genannt, einnimmt. Am lebhaftesten wird das Palais, wenn am Abend Alles erleuchtet ist und die Schauspiele geendet sind. Dann drängen sich Menschen aller Stände und Alter umher, und die vornehmern und mittlern Classen der Buhldirnen, von denen viele die obern Zimmer und Dachstuben bewohnen, treiben dann ihr Unwesem. Um Mitternacht werden die Thüren der eisernen Gitter geschlossen, welche gegen den Garten zu die Arkaden verbinden, und nun verliert sich allmählig das unruhige Umherwogen.” [1-90] [1-91] [1-92]

Prostitution in the Palais Royal, 1815.
Prostitution in the Palais Royal, 1815. [34]

This is the first time a term appears in our report that we will have to examine in more detail later: The Chasse-Café. But more about that later.

As the Palais Royal belonged to the Duke of Orléans, the police had no access to it and so there was a certain freedom of assembly. [2]


We may be surprised that prostitution was so ubiquitous; but as we can see from the ‘Briefen eines reisenden Franzosen’ (‘Letters of a Traveling Frenchman’) from 1784, prostitution was not only ubiquitous in Paris, as the author reports in it: “Shakespeare has already suggested it to the local police. I don’t remember in which of his theatrical works this poet has a Viennese whoremaster say, ‘if the police wanted to abolish whoring altogether, they would have to castrate all the men’.[27-160] [28-293]

Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 293.
Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 293.[28-293]

– »Shakespear hat es schon der hiesigen Polizey vorgeschlagen. Ich besinne mich nicht, in welchem Stücke seiner theatralischen Werke dieser Dichter einen Hurenwirth zu Wien sagen läßt, ›wenn die Polizey das Huren gänzlich abschaffen wollte, so müßte sie alle Mannsleuthe kastriren.‹« [27-160] [28-293]

Café Foy, 1789.
Café Foy, 1789. [9-97]
As the Palais Royal was a central meeting place, it is not surprising that Camille Desmoulins, a leader of the French Revolution, called for armed resistance there on July 13, 1789 (it may have been July 11 or 12). He gave a speech in the Palais Royal that won over the crowd. He asked them to make a sign for the freedom fighters, pinning the leaf of a tree to his hat himself, and thus the custom of wearing cocades was born. [2] [3] [9-100] He aroused the passion of the crowd, so that at the end of his speech, he and his audience marched out of the Café Foy, also a café of the Palais Royal, on their way to the Revolution. Two days later, the Bastille was stormed. [9-100]

William H. Ukers: All about coffee. 1922, page 100.
William H. Ukers: All about coffee. 1922, page 100. [9-100]
The coffee houses of the Palais Royal were also a center of activity in the days before and after the French Revolution. Arthur Young, who was in Paris in July 1789, reported: “The coffee houses present yet more singular and astounding spectacles; they are not only crowded within, but other expectant crowds are at the doors and windows, listening à gorge déployée to certain orators who from chairs or tables harangue each his little audience; the eagerness with which they are heard, and the thunder of applause they receive for every sentiment of more than common hardiness or violence against the government, cannot easily be imagined.[9-100]

The role of coffee houses

As we can see from the examples given so far, coffee houses played an important political role.

The coffee houses in Paris catered to all social classes from the outset; unlike the London coffee houses, they retained this custom. [9-100] They took on an important social function. It is “to their particular credit that they popularized knowledge and combined hospitality with enlightenment. With the invention of the newspaper and the establishment of the postal service, they are the cradle of today’s print media. The possibility of public, more or less scholarly discourse emerged from the courtly circles, which had cultivated it exclusively until then, and also became possible for citizens. This also included the emergence of a neutral public place that could function as a meeting place … . Without these prerequisites, neither the reading mania of the Biedermeier period nor the newly emerging culture of writing would have been conceivable. The coffee houses also provided the impetus for the reading societies of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were dedicated to the promotion of virtue and taste.[4]

As had been the case in the Ottoman Empire long before, coffee houses were considered places of rebellion. Thus Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay, [16-91] [24] wrote to Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, the lieutenant general of the French police, on December 27, 1685: [16-91] [25] “On December 27. The King has been informed that in several places in Paris where coffee is served, gatherings of all kinds of people, especially foreigners, are taking place. Thereupon H. M. has ordered me to write to you to send me a list of all those who sell it, and to ask you whether you do not think it would be advisable to prevent them from doing so in future.[26-575]

Georg Bernhard Depping: Correspondance administrative sous le règne de Louis XIV. Tome II. 1851, page 575.
Georg Bernhard Depping: Correspondance administrative sous le règne de Louis XIV. Tome II. 1851, page 575. [26-575]

– “Le 27 décembre. Le roy a esté informé que dans plusieurs endroits de Paris où l’on donne à boire du caffé, il se fait des assemblées de toute sorte de gens, et particulièrement d’estrangers. Sur quoy S. M. m’ordonne de vous escrire de m’envoyer un mémoire de tous ceux qui en vendent, et de vous demander si vous ne croiriez pas qu’il fust à propos de les empescher à l’advenir.” [26-575]

The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. CCXCV. London, 1903, page 48.
The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. CCXCV. London, 1903, page 48. [18-48]

Louis XIV was thus confronted with the same problems as the Ottoman Sultan or the English King Charles II, whose subjects also gathered in coffee houses to discuss politics and government, and whose visitors were people “who devised and spread abroad diverse false, malicious, and scandalous reports.” [18-48]

William H. Ukers: All about coffee. 1922, page 100.
William H. Ukers: All about coffee. 1922, page 100. [17-57]

They met “for discussing, theorizing, and general wagging of tongue,” [17-57]

and the coffee houses were “hot-beds of seditious talk and slanderous attacks upon persons in high stations.” [17-57]

The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. CCXCV. London, 1903, page 48-49.
The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. CCXCV. London, 1903, page 48-49. [18-48] [18-49]

In 1676, coffee houses were therefore banned in England; [14-65] [16-89] but they had to be permitted again, with the requirement to prevent “all scandalous papers, books, and libels from being read in them ; and to hinder every person from spreading scandalous reports against the Government.” [18-48] [18-49]

In Germany, too, coffee houses were apparently always a place of disturbance. On August 31, 1761, the Ordinari-Münchner-Zeitungen wrote: “In order to prevent all mischief and annoyances, a public edict has been issued ordering that in future no coffee house be kept open longer than 4 o’clock at night.[30-556]

Ordinari-Münchner-Zeitungen. Num. CXXXIX. 31. August 1761, page 556.
Ordinari-Münchner-Zeitungen. Num. CXXXIX. 31. August 1761, page 556. [30-556]

– “Um allen Unfug und Aergernissen vorzubeugen, ist durch ein öffentliches Edict befohlen worden, hinkünftig kein Caffeehaus länger als bis 4. Uhr des Nachts offen zu halten.[30-556]

Kultur der Neuigkeiten

From the very beginning, coffee houses were news exchanges and a wide variety of newspapers could be read there. It is therefore not surprising that they were observed by the police. [10-115]

The Parisian secret police had their informers in the cafés, and reports were written daily. Some of these have been preserved; they are almost complete for the years between 1724 and 1745. [10-111] [10-112] Criticism and ridicule of the king was a daily occurrence, and the police often intervened. [10-77] Coffeehouse conversations were monitored, but sanctions were rarely imposed. In 1749, in a trial against François Philippe Mellin de Saint-Hilaire, the defendant apologized, saying that “his words were a mistake, but not a crime of state, precisely because they were uttered in the atmosphere of the Café Procope, where everyone talks like that.[10-77] The speeches were tolerated by the police, except in serious cases such as murder and conspiracy fantasies or statements that stirred up too much commotion. However, it is difficult to define exactly where the police’s tolerance limit lay. [10-77]

Let Jens Ivo Engels have his say, who aptly describes the situation in Paris as a ‘culture of news’: “The contributions to the discussion about the king were part of a real culture of urban opinion exchange. They can certainly be seen as an expression of a political public sphere. But it was not limited to politics. Let us rather understand it in its broadest sense as a form of sociability and the organization of leisure time. The aim of the interlocutors was not so much to engage in politics as to find diversion. Talking about the king or the war was embedded in various activities ranging from enjoying fashionable drinks such as coffee or liqueur to gallant walks under shady trees. Knowing the news, be it about the king or the opera scandals, obviously served to enhance the reputation of the messenger, around whom a circle of attentive listeners gathered. The news, drinking and walking also provided a stage for creating and ‘celebrating’ identity or social relationships[10-112] [10-113] – “The most important places of news culture in Paris were coffee houses and the so-called promenades in the gardens of the Tuileries, the Palais-Royal, the Palais du Luxembourg and the promenades of the Parlement on the île de la Cité. The promenades offered a wide range of entertainment and consumer goods. There were traders selling jewelry, fashion accessories, dried fruit, beer and other specialties. This is where the high and low society gathered to present themselves and their clothes, dine, play cards or boules, sing, buy and read books, banter with strangers and acquaintances, exchange gallantries, conquer courtesans, watch small traveling stages and showmen or find out the latest news. Sometimes regular discussion groups were formed, which met regularly and often specialized in certain topics. In the Palais-Royal, for example, you could meet the ‘politicos’ under a large tree. As the city of Paris was still relatively manageable despite its size, there was probably no real anonymity.[10-114]

»Die Diskussionsbeiträge zum König waren Teil einer regelrechten Kultur des städtischen Meinungsaustausches. Wohl kann man darin den Ausdruck einer politischen Öffentlichkeit sehen. Aber er war nicht auf Politik beschränkt. Begreifen wir ihn lieber in seiner umfassenden Art als Geselligkeitsform und Gestaltung von Mußestunden. Das Ziel der Gesprächspartner war es weniger, Politik zu machen, als vielmehr Zerstreuung zu finden. Reden über den König oder den Krieg war eingebettet in verschiedene Handlungen vom Genuß der modischen Getränke wie Kaffee oder Likör bis hin zu galanten Spaziergängen unter schattigen Bäumen. Eine Neuigkeit zu wissen, sei es über den König oder die Opernskandale, diente offenbar ebenso wie ein eleganter Auftritt dazu, das Ansehen ihres Überbringers zu erhöhen, um den sich ein Kreis aufmerksamer Zuhörer scharte. So boten die Nachrichten, das Trinken und Wandeln vor allem auch eine Bühne, um Identität oder soziale Beziehungen zu schaffen und zu ›feiern‹« [10-112] [10-113]»Die wichtigsten Orte der Nachrichtenkultur in Paris waren Kaffeehäuser und die sogenannten Promenaden in den Gärten der Tuilerien, des Palais-Royal, des Palais du Luxembourg und die Wandelgänge des Parlement auf der île de la Cité. Die Promenaden boten ein vielfältiges Vergnügungs- und Konsumangebot. Es gab Händler mit Schmuck, modischen Accessoires, getrockneten Früchten, Bier und anderen Spezialitäten. Hier fand sich die feine und auch die weniger feine Gesellschaft ein, um sich und ihre Kleider zu präsentieren, zu speisen, Karten oder Boule zu spielen, zu singen, Bücher zu kaufen und zu lesen, mit Fremden und Bekannten zu scherzen, Galanterien auszutauschen, Kurtisanen zu erobern, kleinen Wanderbühnen und Schaustellern zuzuschauen oder Neuigkeiten zu erfahren. Es entstanden mitunter feste Diskussionsgruppen, die sich regelmäßig versammelten und oft thematisch spezialisiert waren. Im Palais-Royal etwa traf man die ›Politischen‹ unter einem großen Baum an. Da die Stadt Paris trotz ihrer Größe immer noch relativ überschaubar war, gab es wohl keine echte Anonymität.« [10-114]

The ‘culture of news’ certainly contributed significantly to the success of the coffee houses. This is also the view of the monograph on coffee published in Paris in 1832: “Following the example of Étienne d’Alep, the taverns where coffee was served were, as a contemporary author put it, sumptuously furnished rooms with marble tables, mirrors and crystal chandeliers, where many honest people from the city gathered, less to drink coffee than to learn the news of the day. We would like to remind you that the publication of gazettes or newspapers dates back to the introduction of coffee in France.[15-32] [15-33]

G.-E. Coubard d’Aulnay: Monographie du café,cafier, l’histoire du café. 1832, page 32-33.
G.-E. Coubard d’Aulnay: Monographie du café,cafier, l’histoire du café. 1832, page 32-33. [15-32] [15-33]

– “D’apres I’exemple qu’avait donné Étienne d’Alep, les cabarets dans lesquels on donnait à boire le Café, étaient, suivant I’expression d’un auteur de ce temps, des rêduits magnifiquement parés de tables de marbre, de miroirs et de lustres de cristal, où quantité d’honnètes gens de la ville s’assemblaient, moins pour y prendre du Café, que pour y apprendre les nouvelles du jour. Nous rappellerons ici que c’est de I’introduction du Café en France que date la publication des gazettes ou journaux.[15-32] [15-33]

Johann Kaspar Riesbeck, born in Höchst am Main in 1754, lived in Vienna from 1775 to 1777, settled in Zurich in 1780 and was editor of the newly founded Zürcher Zeitung. [27-4] In 1783, he published  “Briefe eines Reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland. An seinen Bruder zu Paris. Uebersetzt von K. R. Riesbeck” (“Letters from a French traveler about Germany. To his brother in Paris. Translated by K. R. Riesbeck”). The work is based on his own experiences during his years of travel between 1770 and 1780, but he is also said to have incorporated reports from others. He claimed that the letters came from a Frenchman in order to gain freedom as a writer and to be able to elegantly incorporate the liberal ideas circulating there. [27-4] [27-5] [29] In his letters from Vienna, he describes the importance of cultivated togetherness and the culture of news, coupled with a certain freedom of thought, in Paris and what the Viennese lacked. He remarks: “But as much as the nourishment of your body is taken care of here, your soul hungers for the friendly dinés and soupés in Paris, which are more for sharing mutual feelings and observations than for indigestion and flatulence.[27-151] [28-277]

Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 277.
Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 277. [28-277]

“Aber so sehr nun auch für die Nahrung deines Leibes hier gesorgt ist, so sehr hungert es deiner Seele nach den freundschaftlichen Dines und Soupes zu Paris, die mehr zur Mittheilung der gegenseitigen Empfindungen und Beobachtungen, als zu Indigestionen [Verdauungsstörungen] und Blähungen angelegt sind.”  [27-151] [28-277]

He continues: “Upon the whole, you meet here with none of the briskness, the spirited pleasure, the unconstrained satisfaction, and the interesting curiosity about what is going forwards, that you find at Paris, even amongst the lowest orders of society. No body here makes remarks upon the ministers or the court; no body entertains the company with the novelty or anecdote of the day. You meet with numberless people of the middling ranks who have nothing to say of their ministers, their generals, and philosophers, and who hardly know even their names. Nothing is taken care of but the animal part. They breakfast till they dine, and they dine till they sup, with only the interval of, perhaps, a short walk and going to the play. If you go into a coffee-house, of which there are about feventy, or into a beer-house, which are the most elegant and best furnished of all the public houses, (I saw one with red damask tapestry, pictures with gilt frames, looking-glasses, clocks and Grecque, and marble tables) you will see nothing but a perpetual motion of jaws. One thing you may rest assured of, that no one will come up to you or be troublesome with questions; no man there talks at all, except with his neighbour, and then he most commonly whispers. You would conceive you were in a Venetian coffee-house, where they all take one another for spies.[27-152] [27-153] [28-278] [28-279] [28-180] [35-239] [35-240]

Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 278-230.
Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 278-230. [28-278] [28-279] [28-180]

– “Ueberhaupt herscht hier im alltäglichen Umgang nichts von der Munterkeit, dem geistigen Vergnügen, der uneingeschränkten Gesälligkeit, der lebhaften und zum Interesse des Umganges unumgänglich nöthigen Neugierde, wodurch auch die Gesellschaften vom niedrigsten Rang zu Paris beseelt werden. Kein Mensch macht hier Beobachtungen über die Leuthe, die den Hof ausmachen. Niemand versieht das Publikum mit Anekdoten und Neuigkeiten du jour [Neuigkeiten des Tages]. Du findest unzälige Leuthe vom Mittelstand, die von ihren Ministern, Generälen und Gelehrten kein Wörtchen zu sagen wissen, und sie kaum dem Namen nach kennen. Alles hängt hier ganz an der Sinnlichkeit. Man frühstücket sich bis zum Mittagessen, speißt dann zu Mittag bis zum Nachtmal, und kaum wird dieser Zusammenhang von Schmäusen von einem trägen Spaziergang unterbrochen, und dann gehts in das Schauspiel. Gehst du den Tag über in ein Kafeehaus, deren es hier gegen 70 giebt, oder in ein Bierhaus, welche unter den öffentlichen Häusern die reinlichsten und prächtigsten sind – ich sah eines mit rothem Damast tapezierte, mit vergoldeten Rahmen, Uhren und Spiegeln à la grecque [Imitation im Stil der griechischen Antike], und mit Marmortischen – so siehst du halt das ewige Essen, Trinken und Spielen. Du bist sicher, daß dich kein Mensch ausforscht, oder dir mit Fragen lästig ist. Kein Mensch redet da, als nur mit deinen Bekannten, und gemeiniglich nur ins Ohr. Man sollte denken, es wäre hier wie zu Venedig, wo sich alle Leuthe in den öffentlichen Häusern für Spione halten.[27-152] [27-153] [28-278] [28-279] [28-180]

He aptly remarks: “I need not tell you more about our nation than that the freedom of thought is much less restricted by the government here than in many states that call themselves free, and also much less by religion than in some Protestant countries.[27-180] [28-334] [28-335]

Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 334-335.
Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783 , page 334-335. [28-334] [28-335]

– “Von unsrer Nation brauch’ ich dir mehr nicht zu sagen, als daß die Freyheit zu denken bey uns von der Regierung viel weniger eingeschränkt wird, als in sehr vielen Staaten, die sich frey nennen, und auch viel weniger durch die Religion, als in manchen protestantischen Ländern.[27-180] [28-334] [28-335]

It was not only the coffee houses that played an important social role, but also the salon. Both are important for the history of the Pousse Café, which is why the next article in this series will take a closer look at the emergence and significance of the salon.

  1. https://www.google.de/books/edition/Reisen_nach_den_vorz%C3%BCglichsten_Hauptst/kfUdi_NHqBYC?hl=de&gbpv=1&dq=%22chasse+cafe%22&pg=PA91&printsec=frontcover Christ. Gottfr. Dan. Stein: Reise über Aachen, Brüssel nach Paris, Straßburg und Basel, durch Baden, Hessen, Franken und Thüringen. Leipzig, 1828. Das Buch beschreibt eine Reise aus dem Jahr 1825 (laut Vorrede).
  2. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Royal Palais Royal.
  3. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Desmoulins Camille Desmoulins.
  4. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9 Café.
  5. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_de_la_R%C3%A9gence Café de la Régence.
  6. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_Procope Café Procope.
  7. https://thegoodlifefrance.com/the-history-of-coffee-in-france/ Sue Aran: The history of coffee in France.
  8. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_XV. Ludwig XV.
  9. https://archive.org/details/AllAboutCoffee/page/91/mode/2up?q=frenchAb William H. Ukers: All about coffee. New York, 1922.
  10. https://perspectivia.net/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/ploneimport_derivate_00010982/engels_koenigsbilder.pdf Jens Ivo Engels: Königsbilder. Sprechen, Singen und Schreiben über den französischen König in der ersten Hälfte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts. Pariser Historische Studien, Band 52. 2000.
  11. https://books.google.de/books?id=nsPTDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA364&lpg=PA364&dq=%22die+ersten+kaffeeh%C3%A4user+in+frankreich%22&source=bl&ots=Gyc82xfa6s&sig=ACfU3U3rItWvMuKSdzcBHHmzY67kGKQCeA&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRgr6h8qv1AhUthP0HHZEHB98Q6AF6BAgCEAM#v=onepage&q=%22die%20ersten%20kaffeeh%C3%A4user%20in%20frankreich%22&f=false Egon Friedell: Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit. Kulturgeschichte Ägyptens. ISBN 978-3-86150-893-9. Zweitausendeins, Frankfurt am Main, 2009.
  12. https://www.swr.de/swr2/programm/download-swr-15678.pdf SWR2 Wissen. Kaffee – Vom „Türkentrunk” zum Trendgetränk. Von Dimitrios Kisoudis. Sendung: Donnerstag, 29. September 2016, 08.30 Uhr. Produktion: SWR 2016.
  13. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%BCleyman_I. Süleyman I.
  14. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Domingue Saint-Domingue.
  15. https://archive.org/details/b21525420/page/28/mode/2up?q=%22%C3%89tienne+d%27alep%22 G.-E. Coubard d’Aulnay: Monographie du café, ou manuel de l’amateur de café, ouvrage contenant la description et la culture du cafier, l’histoire du café, ses caractères commerciaux, sa préparation et ses propriétés; orné d’une belle lithographie. Paris, 1832.
  16. https://archive.org/details/fooddrinkinhisto00balt/page/86/mode/2up?q=%22%C3%89tienne+d%27alep%22 FALSCHER TITEL Anonymus: Annales d’hygiène publique et de médecine légale. Deuxième série. Tome XVII. Paris, 1862. RICHTIG IST: Jean Leclant: Caffee and Cafés in Paris, 1644-1693. In: Food and Drink in History. Selections from the Annales Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations. Volume 5. Edited by Robert Foster and Orest Ranum. Seite 86-97. Baltimore & London, 1979.
  17. https://archive.org/details/coffeefromplant03thurgoog/page/n90/mode/2up?q=%22Etienne+d%27Alep%22 Francis B. Thurber: Coffee: from plantation to cup. A brief history of coffee production and consumption. Ninth edition. New York, 1884.
  18. https://archive.org/details/gentlemansmagaz170unkngoog/page/48/mode/2up?q=sat+in+consultation The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. CCXCV. London, 1903.
  19. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cafeti%C3%A8re Cafetière.
  20. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limonadier Limonadier.
  21. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Diderot Denis Diderot.
  22. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_YeFVAAAAcAAJ/page/n9/mode/2up Rameau’s Neffe. Ein Dialog von Diderot. Aus dem Manuskript übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet von Goethe. Leipzig, 1805.
  23. https://archive.org/details/uvresinditeslen00didegoog/page/n40/mode/2up Œuvres inédites de Diderot. Le neveu de Rameau. Voyage de Hollande. Paris, 1821.
  24. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_Colbert Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
  25. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Nicolas_de_la_Reynie Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie.
  26. https://archive.org/details/correspondancead02depp/page/574/mode/2up Georg Bernhard Depping: Correspondance administrative sous le règne de Louis XIV, entre le cabinet du roi, les secrétaires d’état, le chancelier de France. Tome II. Paris, 1851.
  27. Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen. ISBN 978-3-8477-0012-8. Die Andere Bibliothek, Berlin, 2013.
  28. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_GPRdAAAAcAAJ/page/277/mode/2up Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Briefe eines reisenden Franzosen über Deutschland an seinen Bruder zu Paris. Erster Band. 1783.
  29. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Kaspar_Riesbeck Johann Kaspar Riesbeck.
  30. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_dBZEAAAAcAAJ/page/n691/mode/2up?q=caffeehaus Ordinari-Münchner-Zeitungen. Num. CXXXIX. 31. August 1761.
  31. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caf%C3%A9_Procope,_Paris;_men_and_women_chatting_over_drinks._Aqu_Wellcome_V0014353.jpg?uselang=de Café Procope, Paris: men and women chatting over drinks. Aquatint. 
  32. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Palais_Royal_Garden_Walk,_G.13104.jpg Promenade du Jardin du Palais Royal, 1787.
  33. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_R%C3%A9gence_1874.jpg The famous chess-playing center Café de la Régence of Paris, France, in 1874.
  34. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palais-royal_1815.jpg La prostitution au Palais-royal en 1815.
  35. https://archive.org/details/travelsthroughg01matygoog/page/n256/mode/2up Johann Kaspar Riesbeck: Travels through Germany, in a series of letters; written in German by the Baron Riesbeck, and translated by the Rev. Mr. Maty, late Secretary to the Royal Society, and Under Librarian to the British Museum. Vol I. London, 1787.

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Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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