There may be more coffee houses than there has ever been, if you include modern chains populating the street corners of metropolitan centers with their elaborate – and overpriced – caffeine concoctions.
Ironically, the vast multiplication of java joints in today’s world is no substitute for the grand tradition of European-inspired coffee houses, according to Shachar Pinsker, a professor of Judaic and Middle East studies at the University of Michigan.
Those old-world cafés, which began popping up in Europe in the 18th century, were much smaller in number, but were nevertheless significant. Not only were they social gathering places, they became street-level emporiums that nurtured a wide variety of intellectual life. And they were places where some of the leading cultural figures of the day held forth with discussions on art, philosophy and politics.