When the first coffee house opened in Oxford, it gave rise to a place where innovation, ideas, politics, science, and literature were discussed openly and candidly.
As coffee houses spread, some even became popular for specialised subjects on science or shipping and as customers moved from cafe to cafe, information was passed, assessed for its usefulness, refined via discussion and passed on to become productive information.
The coffee houses were the egalitarian equivalent of today’s social networking sites, where everyone could offer an opinion without backlash but never without a coffee.
With an entry fee of one penny, the cost of a cup of coffee, some coffee houses went onto be called “penny universities” because so many of England’s Royal Society spent hours debating the scientific topics of the day.
The lifeblood of business meetings has always been caffeine. Everyone has their preferences, and everyone has an opinion on how it should be served.
But no one has ever been concerned, until now, that cup in hand and leaning into a conversation, you are flaunting the ‘new rules’ of business and public health imperatives.
Social distance has mandated no more quiet discussion, no whispers and certainly no confidential chats as you shout across the table at your business colleague.
Most cafe tables are not even big enough to comply with the ‘new rules’, so how will we navigate the new social norms that will dictate cafe business meetings? Will we hear, “I’m sorry but these two tables are ours”, “I’m waiting on someone so can I have an additional table please”, all to provide enough geography of distance?
Most global events and crises have brought people together, but this event has the opposite effect and is all about isolation. Isolation, if it’s extended too long, will break connections.
Being close to people has always been a pleasure that is heightened with a good coffee. So don’t forget what it was like because sometime in the future you will smell the coffee roasting as you smile at your colleague across a cafe table with only enough room for two cups and some sugar.
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