After the Turkish army, under the leadership of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, had besieged Vienna for almost two months, imperial troops liberated the city on the 12th of September and drove the Turks out. Among other things, many bags of coffee remained, a delicacy previously unknown to the Viennese. Legend has it that Georg Franz Kolschitzky, an imperial courier and businessman, founded the first Viennese coffee house "Zur blaue Flasche" (The Blue Bottle Coffee House) with these left behind coffee bags.
It is historically proven that the premiere of the Viennese coffee house took place on the 17th of January 1685 when Johannes Deodat received the first privilege to serve coffee at his home on the Haarmarkt - today: Rotenturmstraße 14. By the year 1700, four more coffee houses were established. They were owned by Emperor Leopold I, who was given the exclusive privilege to produce coffee, tea, chocolate and similar drinks and serve them in public places in Vienna. This was also the birth of the Viennese Coffee House Owner Guild. In 1714 there were already 11 publicly owned coffee houses in the city, by 1737 there were 37, by 1770 a total of 48, fourteen years later already 64 and shortly after the turn of the century 89. In 1819, 150 coffee house owners served the stimulating drink in Vienna.
The Viennese coffee houses were to date rather dark, comfortless localities. The first coffee house owner to open a lavishly furnished coffee house, was Johann Evangelist Milani around 1770. It was situated at Kohlmarkt and had a mirrored entrance and a game room with several billiard tables. From 1808 there was the "Silberne Kaffeehaus" of the legendary coffee house proprietor, Ignaz Neuner, with silver coffee sets and coat hooks. Comfortable furniture and being equipped with billard tables were soon the norm. At that time, the “Sitzkassierin” (seated cashier) came into fashion. Enthroned behind the buffet at the cash register and, as the only female present in the coffee house, she often enjoyed flirting with the male patrons.
The first Viennese concert café was founded by Martin Wiegand and was called Café Bellevue. The then most famous concert cafés were found at the Prater, a former imperial hunting ground, which was open to the common people from 1776 onwards. Located at the Prater there was the "First Coffee House", the "Second Coffee House" and the "Third Coffee House". Famous musicians such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Josef Lanner, Johann and Eduard Strauss and Carl Michael Ziehrer performed on their big stages. During the Biedermeier period, the garden- or summer cafés originated. They were in the beautiful outskirts of Vienna and were popular for family outings.
Up to date, the “coffee house” was a purely male domain. Then the family café came into existence, which had lady parlours for coffee parties and "discussion circles". At the same time, the first coffee patisseries were founded, which were mainly frequented by women or families. Here, the combination of coffee and desserts was intensively cultivated, which gradually also prevailed in the classic coffee houses, which remained reserved for the gentlemen. As refreshment, a variety of egg dishes were available. For desserts, “Kipferl”, “Gugelhupf”, “Buchteln”, “Krapfen”, poppy seed-, nut- and apple strudel and sometimes even a special cake associated with the coffee house, were offered.
The intellectual, artistic, scientific, economic and political elite of the Habsburg Empire met up in the Viennese coffee house. It had a tremendous fascination and charisma and was therefore copied in all crown lands of the Danube monarchy. After this gigantic empire collapsed in November 1918, one of the few lasting achievements was the coffee house, which continued to thrive in all the newly founded states. The coffee house also flourished in Austria, which had shrunk to a small state. Shortly before the Second World War, there were 1 238 licenced coffee houses in Vienna.
During the fifties in Vienna, the small, modern espresso also came into fashion. The coffee was made with an innovative espresso machine imported from Italy, while it was still being brewed in traditional coffee houses. Since the "espresso" tasted extremely delicious and was also much faster and easier to prepare, the espresso machines were also a triumphant success in the Viennese coffee houses. Though it had no influence on the recipes of the varied Viennese coffee specialties: a large “Mokka” remained a large “Mokka” and an “Einspänner” an “Einspänner”.
As a "typical social practice", the Viennese coffee house culture has been officially included in UNESCO's national inventory of intangible cultural heritage since the 10th of November 2011. What exactly does that mean? The description of the UNESCO Commission clearly states: "The tradition of Viennese coffee house culture dates back to the end of the 17th century and is characterized by a very special atmosphere. Typical for a Viennese coffee house are marble tables on which the coffee is served, Thonet chairs, booths, newspaper tables and details of the interior design and decoration in the Historicism architectural style. The coffee house is a place where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee appears on the bill."