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That said, most people frequented several coffee-houses, the choice of which reflected their range of interests.A merchant, for example, would generally oscillate between a financial coffee-house and one specialising in Baltic, West Indian or East Indian shipping.Three centuries ago, the answer was just as easy: you went to a coffee-house.
Coffee, the drink that fuelled this network, originated in the highlands of Ethiopia, where its beans were originally chewed rather than infused for their invigorating effects.
It spread into the Islamic world during the 15th century, where it was embraced as an alternative to alcohol, which was forbidden (officially, at least) to Muslims.
Coffee came to be regarded as the very antithesis of alcoholic drinks, sobering rather than intoxicating, stimulating mental activity and heightening perception rather than dulling the senses.
The wide-ranging interests of Robert Hooke, a scientist and polymath, were reflected in his visits to around 60 coffee-houses during the 1670s.
As the 's categorisation suggests, the coffee-house most closely associated with science was the Grecian, the preferred coffee-house of the members of the Royal Society, Britain's pioneering scientific institution.
The coffee-houses that sprang up across Europe, starting around 1650, functioned as information exchanges for writers, politicians, businessmen and scientists.