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Books & Coffee: a Love Story

By Michal Strutin
September 9, 2022

Find a book that calls to you, purchase, then sit down with coffee and a pastry or light lunch and lose yourself in reading. A bookstore café: pure pleasure. Books + coffee, a match made in…Venice, in the sixteenth century?


Johannes Gutenberg married a few technical ideas to create movable-type press and, by 1450, he had established what is now known as a Gutenberg press in the city of Mainz, Germany. Typography arrived in Venice in 1469. Because of Venice’s centrality as a mercantile and shipping center, matched with the clamor for printed books, Venice became the center of the first publishing industry. Instead of taking months to hand-write a single book, the Gutenberg press allowed printers to reproduce many copies of a book in weeks, even days. See how it worked.


The Coffee Bearer by John Frederick Lewis (1857). Cairo,
Coffee plants originally came from Ethiopia, but once people discovered its delights, the bean and beverage spread. Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, adopted coffee in the early sixteenth century. Then it spread to Europe through Venice. Coffee beans first arrived in Venice around 1570 and were sold in pharmacies. Coffee quickly “jumped ship” and became popular as a stimulating drink. The earliest date I could locate for a bookstore café is the Café Procope, opened in 1686 in Paris’s Latin Quarter. Except for a 50-year break beginning in the 1870s, it’s been open continually since the 17th century.

Cafè Greco in Rome, 1865

My introduction to bookstore cafes came when I was editor of National Parks magazine, in Washington D.C. I love making magazines, but editorial work is full of stressful deadlines: manuscripts, photos, page proofs, press deadlines. I discovered Kramers bookstore café near Dupont Circle and that became a lunch-time escape. In Denver, it was the Tattered Cover. When I lived in Johnson City, Tennessee, Malaprop’s bookstore was just over the hill in Asheville, North Carolina. Here in San Jose, it’s a ten-minute drive to a large Barnes and Noble with a café.

Below is a sampling of bookstore cafes. Add your favorites in the Comments section.

Atlanta, GA, Lucian Books and Wine

Asheville, NC: Malaprop’s

Lucian Books and Wine, Atlanta, GA

Austin, TX: BookPeople

Boulder, CA: Trident

Brooklyn, NY: Café Con Libros

Charlotte, NC: Julia’s Café & Books

Chicago, IL: The Book Cellar

Corte Madera, CA: Book Passage

Denver, CO: Tattered Cover

Iowa City, IA: Sidekick Coffee & Books

Los Angeles, CA: Stories Books & Café

New York, NY: Housing Works Bookstore

Portland, OR: Powells

San Francisco, CA: Black Bird Bookstore + Café

San Jose, CA: Barnes and Noble

Seattle, WA: Elliott Bay Book Co.

Washington, D.C.:  Kramers

Washington, D.C.: Politics and Prose


Thinking of opening a bookstore café? Here’s how.

Michal Strutin

Written by Michal Strutin

Judging Noa: a Fight for Women’s Rights in the Turmoil of the Exodus is Michal Strutin’s debut novel. She is now working on a mystery series set in the Late Renaissance. Michal’s award-winning nonfiction focuses on natural and cultural history and travel. Her eight nonfiction books include Places of Grace: the Natural Landscapes of the American Midwest with photographer Gary Irving; Discovering Natural Israel, a high-spirited discovery of flora, fauna, and people; Florida State Parks: a Complete Recreation Guide; and History Hikes of the Smokies.

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