Clapham’s operated in the mid-to-late 1700s on a site that is now owned by St John’s College, and the discovery of more than 500 artefacts has shed light on what it was like.
Craig Cessford, from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, called it an “18th century Starbucks”.
The rediscovered items include drinking vessels for tea, coffee and chocolate, serving dishes, clay pipes, animal and fish bones, and an impressive haul of 38 teapots.
Researchers said customers undoubtedly drank coffee, but ale, wine and food ranging from pastry-based snacks to substantial meals involving meat and seafood were also available.
The discovery of 18 jelly glasses, alongside a quantity of feet bones from immature cattle, led researchers to conclude that calf’s foot jelly, a popular dish of that era, might well have been a house speciality.
Coffee house culture was all the rage in the Georgian era, with 30 or more known to have been operating in York. Harrison’s in Nessgate, Iveson’s in Petergate and Duke’s near Ouse Bridge, were among the best known.
In 1724, coffee was so popular that permission was sought in York for a roasting house. However, in some of the city’s establishments, the prospect for gambling was thought to have been a bigger draw than any of the beverages on offer.
Mr Cessford said: “Coffee houses were important social centres during the 18th century, but relatively few assemblages of archaeological evidence have been recovered and this is the first time that we have been able to study one in such depth.”
Coffee-drinking first came to Britain in the 16th century and increased in popularity thereafter. Only towards the end of the 1700s did coffee houses start to disappear, as tea eclipsed it as the national drink.