“The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink”: An Ad for London’s First Cafe Printed Circa 1652

The sto­ry of cof­fee goes back to the 13th cen­tu­ry, when it came out of Ethiopia, then spread to Egypt and Yemen. It reached the Mid­dle East, Turkey, and Per­sia dur­ing the 16th cen­tu­ry, and then Europe dur­ing the ear­ly 17th, though not with­out con­tro­ver­sy. In Venice, some called it the ‘bit­ter inven­tion of Satan,’ but the Pope, upon tast­ing it, gave it his bless­ing. By 1652, St. Michael’s Alley, the first cafe in Lon­don opened its doors, bring­ing cof­fee to Eng­land, thanks to a Sicil­ian immi­grant, Pasqua Rosée.

Today, the British Muse­um hous­es a hand­bill that may well be the first adver­tise­ment for cof­fee in Eng­land. It proves remark­able for a cou­ple of rea­sons. First, the ad intro­duced Brits to what’s now a sta­ple of the West­ern diet, and even­tu­al­ly they’d bring it to North Amer­i­ca. And, what’s more, you can see anoth­er instance of the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Adver­tis­ing is adver­tis­ing, and then, as now, bev­er­ages were sold on their taste and health prop­er­ties. And, of course, you were encour­aged to con­sume the prod­uct not once, but twice a day. You can find a tran­scrip­tion of the text, cour­tesy of Vin­tage Ads, below the jump. via Boing­Bo­ing

More cof­fee bonus items can be found here:

This is Cof­fee!: A 1961 Trib­ute to Our Favorite Stim­u­lant

Every­thing You Want­ed to Know About Cof­fee in Three Min­utes

Jim Henson’s Vio­lent Wilkins Cof­fee Com­mer­cials (1957–1961)


THE Grain or Berry called Cof­fee, groweth upon lit­tle Trees, only in the Deserts of Ara­bia.

It is brought from thence, and drunk gen­er­al­ly through­out all the Grand Seigniors Domin­ions.

It is a sim­ple inno­cent thing, com­posed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Pow­der, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fast­ing an hour before and not Eat­ing an hour after, and to be tak­en as hot as pos­si­bly can be endured; the which will nev­er fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blis­ters, by rea­son of that Heat.

The Turks drink at meals and oth­er times, is usu­al­ly Water, and their Dyet con­sists much of Fruit, the Cru­di­ties where­of are very much cor­rect­ed by this Drink.

The qual­i­ty of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dry­er, yet it nei­ther heats, nor inflames more than hot Pos­set.

It for­clos­eth the Ori­fice of the Stom­ack, and for­ti­fies the heat with- [miss­ing text] its very good to help diges­tion, and there­fore of great use to be [miss­ing text] bout 3 or 4 a Clock after­noon, as well as in the morn­ing.

[miss­ing text] quick­ens the Spir­its, and makes the Heart Light­some. 

[miss­ing text]is good against sore Eys, and the bet­ter if you hold your Head o’er it, and take in the Steem that way.

It supres­seth Fumes exceed­ing­ly, and there­fore good against the Head-ach, and will very much stop any Deflux­ion of Rheumas, that dis­til from the Head upon the Stom­ach, and so pre­vent and help Con­sump­tionsand the Cough of the Lungs.

It is excel­lent to pre­vent and cure the Drop­sy, Gout, and Scurvy.
It is known by expe­ri­ence to be bet­ter then any oth­er Dry­ing Drink for Peo­ple in years, or Chil­dren that have any run­ning humors upon them, as the Kings Evil. &c.

It is very good to pre­vent Mis-car­ry­ings in Child-bear­ing Women.

It is a most excel­lent Rem­e­dy against the Spleen, Hypocon­dri­ack Winds, or the like.

It will pre­vent Drowsi­ness, and make one fit for Busines, if one have occa­sion to Watch, and there­fore you are not to drink of it after Sup­per, unless you intend to be watch­ful, for it will hin­der sleep for 3 or 4 hours.

It is observed that in Turkey, where this is gen­er­al­ly drunk, that they are not trou­bled with the Stone, Gout, Drop­sie, or Scurvy, and that their Skins are exceed­ing cleer and white.

It is nei­ther Lax­a­tive nor Restrin­gent.

Made and Sold in St. Michaels Alley in Corn­hill, by Pasqua Rosee, at the Signe of his own Head.

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Comments (7)
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  • Janet says:

    The boing boing link will get you there even­tu­al­ly, but the full text of the ad is actu­al­ly here:


  • Tareq says:

    Fas­ci­nat­ing adver­tise­ment! I’m con­fused by your use of the term “Mid­dle East” as if it denotes a region dis­tinct from Egypt, Yemen, Turkey, and Per­sia. Per­haps you meant that cof­fee reached oth­er areas of the Mid­dle East, includ­ing Turkey and Per­sia? (Of course, the term “Mid­dle East” did­n’t itself exist in the 16th cen­tu­ry.)

  • ArabianCoffees says:

    As an Arab who now sells cof­fee in the UK, it’s very inter­est­ing to see how this ancient drink was first intro­duced and laud­ed in the coun­try.

    Right, I’m off to pre­vent the onset of scurvy!

  • “the Grand Seigniors Domin­ions” = the Ottoman Empire.

  • Alissa Clough says:

    I’m glad I don’t have to “fast an hour before and after my cof­fee” — how­ev­er would I enjoy my favorite torte!

  • Donna Savage says:

    so mar­velous!

  • Kate Gladstone says:

    When did peo­ple start eat­ing along with cof­fee, instead of leav­ing an hour between cof­fee and food as the ad’s “health advice” directs?

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