Coffeehouse history: Java hot spots not a new concept

February 06, 2008 11:00 pm

Triplicate staff

Coffeehouses started popping up in the Pacific Northwest in the early '90s, and coffee drive-throughs have become lucrative business ventures. The idea however, is not new.

Coffeehouses were common in the Middle East in the 15th century. One of the first, Kiva Han, in Istanbul, was a place to drink coffee or tea, play backgammon or chess and listen to poetry readings. The concept crept its way to Venice, Italy, in 1645 and then to Boston in 1670. Coffeehouses first had their heyday in the '50s as places where beatniks and folk singers would perform their works.

Three academics, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, opened the first Starbucks in 1971. Originally the store sold coffee beans and coffee accessories.

In the early '80s, the partners hired Howard Schultz to be the head of marketing. He came up with the idea for a gathering place to drink coffee and mingle. An espresso bar was opened in one of the Starbucks and was successful. Schultz then opened an espresso bar called Il Giornal before purchasing Starbucks in 1987 and converting the existing stores into coffeehouses.

There are currently 15,756 stores worldwide, and last quarter Starbucks netted $2.77 billion in revenue.