How an Armenian Opened the First Coffeehouse in Prague

Do you ever wonder where the first cup of coffee was in Prague, or how it even got there? The first Europeans to get acquainted with coffee were mostly travelers.

The first traveler from the Czech lands to mention coffee was Kryštof Harant of Polžice and Bezdružice (Czech: Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bezdružic, 1564 – June 21, 1621).

He was a Czech nobleman, traveler, humanist, soldier, writer, and composer. He joined the Protestant Bohemian Revolt in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown against the House of Habsburg that led to Thirty Years’ War. He discovered coffee on his journey to Constantinople in 1598.

Following the victory of Catholic forces in the Battle of White Mountain, Harant was executed in the mass Old Town Square execution by the Habsburgs.

History of Drinking Coffee in the Czech Republic

No one could even imagine that one day, a penniless but resourceful Armenian would make coffee accessible to everyone, also teaching people the right way of coffee drinking.

Many Czechs didn’t even realize the real purpose of the coffee beans that were sold at pharmacies for unthinkable prices, instead being assured that the beans were an effective means to fight indigestion.

Their unawareness could remain for a very long time if not for one enterprising Armenian named Georgies Deodatus. This quite unusual name was given to him in 1699 in Rome after he adopted Catholicism. As for his homeland, he was born in Syria.

In the early 18th century, Georgies arrived in Prague, having passed a long way. It was worth it though as he would eventually reach success, opening the first coffeehouse in the city. At first, penniless Georgies was strolling the streets of the city disguised as a Turk. He carried a small stove with him to make coffee on the go and sell it in small cups.

This small affair soon turned into a successful business. The Armenian merchant settled in Prague, married, and began to consider opening a permanent café in the city. In 1707, he received permission to open a coffeehouse, and in January 1708, he established the first public café in the country in a house named “U zlatého hada” (“At the golden snake’s place”) now located on Karlova St in the Old Town of Prague.

The before-unseen kind of a store immediately grabbed the attention of the locals. Georgies’ café was so popular that many of its visitors were drinking coffee outside the shop due to the huge number of buyers. Prague got addicted to coffee.

After the passing of Georgies, his coffeehouse for a short time provided his family with considerable earning. But in a year, the café would be closed down. One might consider that it was the end of the entrepreneur’s story. However, the legend of Georgies is one of the most known legends of Prague.

(Above scan from Vlastencové z Boudy: historický obraz by Josef Jiří Stankovský, 1904.)

Everyone knows that he has been an Armenian, but alas, his real name is known to none. Today, the building that used to accommodate Georgies’ shop houses a café also named “U zlatého hada”. The coffee of Georgies Deodatus even occupies an honorary spot in its menu.

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