What is beloved by college students, businessmen, and philosophers alike? Coffee. Coffee has played an important role in civilization since the Renaissance. This energizing drink has been inspiring thinkers, businesspeople, and the common person for centuries, and today, there’s hundreds of coffee shops to choose from. So, how should you pick? To understand why coffee shops are so important, it’s important to understand the origins of the modern coffee shop.
The origin of the coffee shop reaches back into the 1500s. Coffee was first grown on the Arabian Peninsula around this time, and the first coffee houses sprung up in the holy city of Mecca. These coffee houses became a place of political discussion and discourse. The Imams, or Muslim priests, actually banned these coffee houses from 1512-1524 because they were believed to be a place of propaganda and threatened to the political regime.
From the Arabian Peninsula, coffee spread to Europe. With the spread of coffee came the spread of the coffee house. Reports say coffee shops spread to Vienna in 1529, where sweeteners were first added to coffee, then to Damascus in 1534, and to Constantinople in 1555. Eventually, coffee houses distributed across the rest of Europe and served similar purposes as they did on the Arabian Peninsula. According to French traveler Jean Chardin, these coffee houses were a place for sharing news, conducting business, discussing politics, and storytelling.
By the 17th Century, coffee, tea, and chocolate had made its way to England and allowed for coffee houses to open across the country, the first being in 1652. From this point, they exploded in popularity and became common across England. They became wildly popular because these shops were one of the only communal spaces in England that did not involve the consumption of alcohol. Before coffee, taverns were a common place to meet, yet, because clean water was hard to come by, many people drank beer. In coffee houses, the boiling of water for coffee and tea created safe to drink and non-intoxicating drinks. In England, much like elsewhere, coffee houses were a place to gather, discuss politics and philosophy, conduct business, and share stories, without the drunken atmosphere commonly found in pubs and taverns of the time.
In the United States, coffee became the beverage of choice after the Boston Tea Party, and even Thomas Jefferson proclaimed: “Coffee—the favorite drink of the civilized world.” These coffee houses became integral to society, and today they are still just as important to our modern world.
Today, when you set foot into a café or coffee shop, you still see people experiencing this communal space the same way they did over 400 years ago: by gathering with friends, co-workers, engaging in discussions, and most importantly: enjoying the America’s favorite beverage.
This shop taps into the essence of what these historical coffee houses were made for: community. Not only is Bay Island Coffee Company a staple in the Gainesville community, but helps support this camaraderie by providing a public space for people to gather without distractions. Located in a tiny shack in the middle of Butler Plaza, they strip down many of the high-tech amenities that one would expect from a modern coffee shop: such as Wi-Fi, charging stations, et cetera. Instead, they focus on the basics: fast service, cheap prices, and some damn good coffee. With this simplistic approach, this coffee shop brings together many different walks of life from around Gainesville: from Alachua County residents to UF students.
In a college town, it’s easy to be swept up in classwork and gravitate towards fancy Starbucks-like shops, but going to Bay Island is an experience unlike others offered in Gainesville. It is truly a hidden gem, since it is so unassuming from the outside. It is easy to drive by and miss it, but if you have not gone and experienced their seasonal flavored coffee selection, their delectable breakfast offerings, or taken advantage of their daily deals, you are truly missing out on one of the best coffee joints in Gainesville. If you are tired of struggling to find a seat at an over-crowded, loud, university coffee shop, drive a quick 10 minutes down Archer road and experience the best Gainesville has to offer in a friendly, communal environment. Once you try some of their offerings, you will understand why this joint has a cult following by many UF students.
Check out Bay Island Coffee Company, located at 3270 SW 35th Blvd. Make sure to take advantage of their great deals offered daily.