I met with my friend Anne on Wednesday, which was good because we are both so busy we rarely get time to see each other. I must start by saying that we had intended to have a quiet drink and maybe a little bite to eat in the Grosvenor Hotel. It’s attached to Victoria Station, so very convenient, and we went in there the last time we met up.

I hate to say this, but the last time we met, we found the maitre d’ a trifle off-putting, and Wednesday was exactly the same. I don’t know why, Anne was dressed in casual clothes and my coat is a bit old and tatty (what can I say? Buying a new coat hasn’t been at the top of my list of priorities. I know I need to get one for next year, but I can tell you all, I’ve seen very wealthy people look far worse than I do). Anyway, one way of another, the first time, he got a pass. This time, we decided to take our custom elsewhere. So we went to Cafe Rouge in Victoria Place instead.

How pleased am I that we did! We had the best waiter in the whole of London, a lovely young man named Curtis who was so attentive and pleasant that we nearly missed the meeting we were due to attend. Curtis, I hope you read this, because you were a star.

Anne and I had both had dental things going on, so our “meal” was quite strange – chips and olives. And, of course, wine. So the Grosvenor’s loss was our gain. The food was cheaper too.

Germain 032

As usual, Anne gave me some interesting info from her spooky friends, I am keeping everything crossed that they have got the timing right. I shall report back on that in due course.

I ended up going to a meeting with Anne about Organo Gold coffee. Organo Gold is known as healthy coffee, with a reduced amount of caffeine, and containing Ganoderma lucidum.

Ganoderma is a genera of mushroom currently being investigated for their potential to assist in antioxidant activities, protecting the liver, lowering blood glucose, antibacterial and antiviral effects and in reducing blood cholesterol to name a few. Ganoderma lucidum specifically is being trialled in chemotherapy patients and has been shown to give a better response to the drug therapy, although I think it’s fair to say that those trials are in the early stages. It’s also been shown to improve immune functions in those patients (chemotherapy often compromises the immune system, so anything that helps strengthen it is a plus.

It is traditionally used in Chinese medicine to enhance longevity and generally enhance health. If it does all the things I’ve said above, it’s easy to see how it would do all these things, although like most things, you can have too much of a good thing, and it also thins the blood, and is apparently useful in altitude sickness.

I am unashamedly a full-strength caffeine, filter coffee type of girl, and I don’t normally buy instant coffee at all, but I will say that the Gourmet Black Coffee was remarkably pleasant. I don’t think I’ll give up normal coffee, but as someone who has a couple of types of liver disease, I think I will try Organo Gold, to see what effect it has. I’m also going to get some for my friend Geoff, the one who had the rare form of leukaemia. They do tea and hot chocolate too. I’ve tried the jasmine tea, but not the other yet, so I can’t comment on that. You can purchase it here if you are interested in trying it:

A little bit of history of coffee in England

Coffee is thought to have originated in Ethiopia as far back as the thirteenth century. The Arabs tried to prevent it from being cultivated elsewhere so they banned the export of fertile coffee beans. It wasn’t until 1616 that the Dutch managed to find a way around the ban and took plants back to the Netherlands to grow in greenhouses. By the late 1600s, the Dutch were growing coffee in India, in Malabar, and in 1699, they took plants to be grown in Java (now Indonesia), hence the name of my favourite, Hot Java Lava. By now, the Dutch were the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.


Of course, coffee had competition: from tea and hot chocolate. Tough choices. The first European coffee houses opened in Venice in 1683. Lloyd’s of London, the largest insurance market in the world, started life in a London coffee house in 1688. The coffee houses flourished because there was no alcohol, so they were considered to be more serious places. It’s always better to do business without those beer goggles. They played an important role in what is known as the Age of Enlightenment. In fact, the first coffee houses in England were established in Oxford rather than London, the first being opened in 1650, called the Angel. Christopher Wren was one of those who frequented the Oxford coffee houses. However, London wasn’t far behind, with the first being opened in 1652.


The coffee houses were also closely associated with news, and The Spectator and The Tatler were widely circulated and considered to be the most influential publications in the coffee houses.

Were women allowed in coffee houses? Historians disagree, with some saying they weren’t allowed, while others say that they mostly chose not to go there because they and their conversation were male dominated. There was, however, a “Women’s Petition Against Coffee,” by those who claimed it made men sterile and impotent!!! Interesting when you consider that when it was first introduced, coffee was considered to be a medicinal drink and I can think of a number of women who’d be force feeding their men coffee if that were actually true.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the coffee houses started to decline. Again, historians don’t universally agree on the reason, in fact, it seems that there were a number of reasons for it, not the least being that the government tried to influence the demand for tea, as a result of positioning of the British East India Company (the John Company). Certainly, tea overtook coffee in popularity.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t until the 1950s that coffee bars started to rise in popularity again. Predominately frequented by the young, there is the image of juke boxes and Teddy Boys that comes to my mind. But it was in 1894 that Lyons opened a teashop in Piccadilly. By 1909 the chain of Lyons Corner Houses opened up, finally closing in 1977. They were four or five stories high, and were open for twenty four hours a day for a while.

Costa Coffee opened up in the 1970s and from there they’ve gone from strength to strength. You barely go anywhere nowadays without seeing a Starbucks or Caffe Nero or a Wild Bean Cafe. There’s even opened up a little coffee bar at my local station.

So there we have it. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate. They’ll all do for me. As I’m such a big tea fan, I probably need to write about that soon.

© Susan Shirley 2015


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