Remember the coffee revolution of the Nineties, when what used to cost 25 cents at some crappy diner suddenly cost $3 at a snooty cafe? Well, at least instead of drinking what looked and tasted like dishwater you now got something that tasted like actual coffee. Ah yes, I was in graduate school then and the coffee revolution came along just at the right time! But coffee has been around a lot longer than that, as a new/old coffeehouse at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia shows.
Americans have been drinking coffee since before they’ve been called Americans. A local wigmaker and caffeine junkie named Richard Charlton opened a coffeehouse at Williamsburg more than 240 years ago, when Virginia was still a colony. Today Colonial Williamsburg, an interesting and authentic recreation of a Colonial town, has reopened this coffeeshop on the same site. You can sit in 18th century style while sipping a coffee, chocolate, or tea. You’re not allowed to dump the tea into the sea, that was in Boston, but Charlton’s coffeeshop was the scene of angry colonists confronting the British-appointed governor of Virginia colony to protest the Stamp Act in 1765.
This wasn’t surprising. Coffeeshops were places to meet and discuss politics. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson drank coffee at Charlton’s shop. There’s no record of what they talked about over a good cup of Joe, but we can imagine. Did hepped-up caffeine addicts create the superpower we know today? Stranger things have happened. . .