M'learned colleague Simon Hopkins related an anecdote from Neal Stephenson's historical novel Quicksilver, about how coffee's introduction to Britain was doubted as being a highly exotic acquired taste, if not a mindbending intoxicant due to the average constitution's lack of familiarity with caffeine.
With delightful serendipity, a recent Pepys' diary entry, for Saturday 10 November, saw our hero stopping off at a coffee-house. The excellent annotations lead to various further notes on coffee, and this fascinating aside from T.B. Macaulay's History of England:
“The coffee house must not be dismissed with a cursory mention. It might indeed at that time have been not improperly called a most important political institution. No Parliament had sat for years. The municipal council of the City had ceased to speak the sense of the citizens. Public meetings, harangues, resolutions, and the rest of the modern machinery of agitation had not yet come into fashion. Nothing resembling the modern newspaper existed. In such circumstances the coffee houses were the chief organs through which the public opinion of the metropolis vented itself."
Further, this excellent article on the history of coffee-houses in general, including which coffee-houses were associated with which nascent political parties, and their importance as nodes in London's information networks:
The London coffee-houses provided a gathering place where, for a penny admission charge, any man who was reasonably dressed could smoke his long, clay pipe, sip a dish of coffee, read the newsletters of the day, or enter into conversation with other patrons. At the period when journalism was in its infancy and the postal system was unorganised and irregular, the coffee-house provided a centre of communication for news and information. Runners were sent round to the coffee-house to report major events of the day, such as victory in battle or political upheaval, and the newsletters and gazettes of the day were distributed chiefly in the coffee-house. Most of the establishments functioned as reading rooms, for the cost of newspapers and pamphlets was included in the admission charge. In addition, bulletins announcing sales, sailings, and auctions covered the walls of the establishments, providing valuable information to the businessman who conducted much of his business from a table at his favourite coffee-house. Naturally, this dissemination of news led to the dissemination of ideas, and the coffee-house served as a forum for their discussion. As the eminent social historian G. M. Trevelyan observed: "The 'Universal liberty of speech of the English nation'...was the quintessence of Coffee House life."
I guess wifi changes things somewhat, but this still sounds like an advance on Starbucks. The fact that their information flows (newspapers, pamphlets, conversation) were covered by the 1p admission is better for a start, never mind the imperative to create a 'universal liberty of speech'.