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What Is a Coffeehouse?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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Also known as a coffee shop or cafe, a coffeehouse is a restaurant that serves hot beverages. This kind of restaurant is often viewed as a place to be social. Some coffee shops allow visitors to stay for long periods of time to read, work on their laptops, or simply interact with other guests. What constitutes a coffeehouse, what people normally do there, and what kind of hot drinks are served besides coffee differs among countries. The history of coffeehouses is rife with religious and cultural significance.

While most coffeehouses usually serve a traditional hot coffee, they are not limited to serving a single kind of beverage. Coffeehouses sometimes serve a variety of specialty coffees and espressos and, in a more limited quantity, breakfast and dessert foods. The types of food available are typically light snacks and baked goods such as cookies, croissants, or the local equivalents. Some coffeehouses offer a wider variety of food, often including sandwiches, but this is not necessarily the norm, though it varies by region. Coffeehouses around the world vary significantly in what they offer; for example, in the Middle East, flavored tobacco is commonly sold.

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The reasons people go to a coffee houses are plentiful and sometimes do not even include drinking coffee. Coffeehouses are often a common gathering place for a certain locale. For example, a person might meet a group of friends at a coffeehouse to hang out and talk after work. In addition, many people go to coffeehouses to read or spend time with other people without directly interacting with them. Sometimes this type of socializing occurs simply because people feel comfortable in the atmosphere of their local coffeehouse.

With the advent of wireless Internet access points, coffeehouses have become a common secondary or even primary location of work for some people. In some developed regions of the world, such as the United States, people who can work outside of an office bring their laptops to a coffeehouse and work off the wireless connection. Rules about spending extended periods of time in a coffeehouse without ordering something vary, and many perspectives on the etiquette of working in a coffeehouse exist.

While coffeehouses are usually a fairly casual social environment, historical significance and modern function varies from region to region. For example, during the 1700s in England, coffeehouses were often divided by class and profession. In the United States, some religious organizations have founded coffeehouses to provide an environment for activities such as Bible study outside of the traditional church environment.

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