Friday, January 29, 2010

Coffee-House Keepers' Tokens

Coffee House TokensThe great London fire of 1666 destroyed some of the coffee houses; but prominent among those that survived was the Rainbow, whose proprietor, James Farr, issued one of the earliest coffee-house tokens, doubtless in grateful memory of his escape. Farr's token shows an arched rainbow emerging from the clouds of the "great fire," indicating that all was well with him, and the Rainbow still radiant. On the reverse the medal was inscribed, "In Fleet Street—His Half Penny."

A large number of these trade coins were put out by coffee-house keepers and other tradesmen in the seventeenth century as evidence of an amount due, as stated thereon, by the issuer to the holder. Tokens originated because of the scarcity of small change. They were of brass, copper, pewter, and even leather, gilded. They bore the name, address, and calling of the issuer, the nominal value of the piece, and some reference to his trade. They were readily redeemed, on presentation, at their face value. They were passable in the immediate neighborhood, seldom reaching farther than the next street. C.G. Williamson writes:

Tokens are essentially democratic; they would never have been issued but for the indifference of the Government to a public need; and in them we have a remarkable instance of a people forcing a legislature to comply with demands at once reasonable and imperative. Taken as a whole series, they are homely and quaint, wanting in beauty, but not without a curious domestic art of their own.

Robinson finds an exception to the general simplicity in the tokens issued by one of the Exchange Alley houses. The dies of these tokens are such as to have suggested the skilled workmanship of John Roettier. The most ornate has the head of a Turkish sultan at that time famed for his horrible deeds, ending in suicide; its inscription runs:

Morat ye Great Men did mee call;
Where Eare I came I conquer'd all.

A number of the most interesting coffee-house keepers' tokens in the Beaufoy collection in the Guildhall Museum were photographed for this work, and are shown herewith. It will be observed that many of the traders of 1660–75 adopted as their trade sign a hand pouring coffee from a pot, invariably of the Turkish-ewer pattern. Morat (Amurath) and Soliman were frequent coffee-house signs in the seventeenth century.

J.H. Burn, in his Catalogue of Traders' Tokens, recites that in 1672 "divers persons who presumed ... to stamp, coin, exchange and distribute farthings, halfpence and pence of brass and copper" were "taken into custody, in order to a severe prosecution"; but upon submission, their offenses were forgiven, and it was not until the year 1675 that the private token ceased to pass current.

A royal proclamation at the close of 1674 enjoined the prosecution of any who should "utter base metals with private stamps," or "hinder the vending of those half pence and farthings which are provided for necessary exchange." After this, tokens were issued stamped "necessary change."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Venice's Cafe Florian

Venice Cafe Florian Probably no coffee house in Europe has acquired so world-wide a celebrity as that kept by Florian, the friend of Canova the sculptor, and the trusted agent and acquaintance of hundreds of persons in and out of the city, who found him a mine of social information and a convenient city directory. Persons leaving Venice left their cards and itineraries with him; and new-comers inquired at Florian's for tidings of those whom they wished to see. "He long concentrated in himself a knowledge more varied and multifarious than that possessed by any individual before or since," says Hazlitt, who has given us this delightful pen picture of caffè life in Venice in the eighteenth century:

"Venetian coffee was said to surpass all others, and the article placed before his visitors by Florian was the best in Venice. Of some of the establishments as they then existed, Molmenti has supplied us with illustrations, in one of which Goldoni the dramatist is represented as a visitor, and a female mendicant is soliciting alms."

So cordial was the esteem of the great sculptor Canova for him, that when Florian was overtaken by gout, he made a model of his leg, that the poor fellow might be spared the anguish of fitting himself with boots. The friendship had begun when Canova was entering on his career, and he never forgot the substantial services which had been rendered to him in the hour of need.

In later days, the Caffè Florian was under the superintendence of a female chef, and the waitresses used, in the case of certain visitors, to fasten a flower in the button-hole, perhaps allusively to the name. In the Piazza itself girls would do the same thing. A good deal of hospitality is, and has ever been, dispensed at Venice in the cafés and restaurants, which do service for the domestic hearth.

There were many other establishments devoted, more especially in the latest period of Venetian independence, to the requirements of those who desired such resorts for purposes of conversation and gossip. These houses were frequented by various classes of patrons—the patrician, the politician, the soldier, the artist, the old and the young—all had their special haunts where the company and the tariff were in accordance with the guests. The upper circles of male society—all above the actually poor—gravitated hither to a man. For the Venetian of all ranks the coffee house was almost the last place visited on departure from the city, and the first visited on his return. His domicile was the residence of his wife and the repository of his possessions; but only on exceptional occasions was it the scene of domestic hospitality, and rare were the instances when the husband and wife might be seen abroad together, and when the former would invite the lady to enter a café or a confectioner's shop to partake of an ice.

The Caffè Florian has undergone many changes, but it still survives as one of the favorite caffè in the Piazza San Marco.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Commercial Coffee Roasting

Commercial Coffee Roasting Coffee is roasted commercially in cylinder or ball receptacles revolving in heated chambers, the degree of heat reaching about 420° F. The cylinder type of roaster is invariably used in the United States; while both the cylinder and the ball types are popular in England, France, Germany, Holland, and other foreign countries.

Each roaster has his or her own opinion about the fuel that gives the best result, and throughout the world the choice lies between anthracite coal, coke, and gas; though hard wood is frequently used in countries where other fuels are not available or not economical. Electric heat has been tried for commercial roasting in Germany (1906), in England (1909), and in the United States (1918); but the experimenters have always found the cost of electric fuel to be prohibitive in competition with coal and gas. An electric roaster was demonstrated at the Food Conservation Show in New York, in 1918, at a time when the federal government was urging the necessity of conserving coal as a war economy measure. The inventor claimed that his machine would reduce roasting cost, improve the flavor and the aroma, and maintain a constant and easily controlled heat. He declared also that when roasted in his devices, less coffee was required for brewing.

An expert coffee-roasting-machinery man who has been working on the development of a practical electric roaster says that if it were possible to bake the coffee in an oven, just as the baker does his bread, the fuel cost would then compare favorably with that of gas or coal. It is because the heat chamber must have an exhaust to release the chaff and smoke that the use of electricity to replace the heat loss proves prohibitive when compared with coal or gas.

In all types of coal and coke burning roasters, the cylinders are heated by a fire underneath; while in gas roasters, the flame may be underneath or within the cylinder itself. Roasters in which the heat is within the cylinder are known as direct-flame or inner-heated machines. All three systems are used in the United States and Europe.