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Paddy & Scott’s Jess Palmer explores coffee’s long-standing link with innovation and learning




Last week while on a break in Oxford I visited the very first established coffee house in the UK, still trading on the same site today. It got me thinking about the UK’s long-standing love affair with coffee – its introduction in the 17th century, the culture that grew around it and how we’re carrying that torch now generations later.

Considering what a staple it is for us in 2020, coffee was not always as well-loved for the Brits as it is today. Arriving in the last 300-400 years, it was originally the source of great controversy. Aside from the taste being at the time so unusual as to be unpalatable, coffee’s properties of energising and stimulating drinkers caused initial mistrust.

With coffee’s growing acceptance and popularity in Europe, the UK soon embraced this new drink as a modern wonder – sleep-defying and with medicinal properties, coffee was accepted and the first coffee house opened in Oxford in the 1650s, with others in London soon following.

coffee and innovation (30784234)
coffee and innovation (30784234)

These early coffee shops became known as ‘penny universities’ where, for a nominal entrance fee, anyone could have access to coffee, newspapers, books and conversation. With caffeine to fuel them, patrons enjoyed communities of learning, debate and ambition away from the structured and exclusive environment of the traditional universities.

Coffee, then, has always been the friend of those seeking progress, innovation and a route into learning. Fast forward a few hundred years and coffee is now many different things to many more people, but at Paddy & Scott’s we haven’t forgotten the legacy of those coffee houses which paved the way.

Our company strapline ‘Fuelling Ambition’ is not only a nod to these first caffeinated pioneers whose learning was literally fuelled by, and made possible by, coffee, it also filters out into every decision we make as a company.

We’re there for everyone who needs a boost to achieve their goals – fuelling all-nighters to get that presentation written, fuelling early mornings for people starting the daily grind, fuelling designated drivers on dance floors, parents through school runs and workers through the mid-afternoon slump.

But ‘Fuelling Ambition’ is about so much more than getting through the day. For us it’s about striving for better wherever we can. Never resting on our laurels, never settling for sub-par and giving a leg-up to anyone brave enough to seek personal improvement. Because of ‘Fuelling Ambition’, 700 children in coffee-growing regions have had a school meal this year, the Muchomba family and their team in Meru, Kenya, can ensure quality and fair pay for their harvests for the future and the nearby school can hold lessons in suitable classrooms and have access to clean running water.

The legacy of that first coffee shop fuels the desire to keep learning and keep pushing for progress. . . we’ll drink to that!

Paddy & Scott’s

Abbeycroft Leisure Centre, Bury St Edmunds

72 High Street, Hadleigh

See paddyandscotts.co.uk


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