Coffeehouses: All the news you could drink

Coffeehouses (and the baristas therein) were once the nation's only source of news.

Before the creation of Brighton and Hove Independent - and its lesser-known rival, with a lower circulation - coffeehouses (and the baristas therein) were the nation's only source of news.

One such coffeehouse - or rather its owner - took this a trifle more seriously than the rest and is now a corporate body governed by Acts of Parliament, with literally billions of pounds of profit a year. Before you guess who it is, remember Starbucks doesn't actually make a profit in the UK. Which is why they don't pay tax.

Edward Lloyd opened the doors of Lloyd's of London on Tower Street in 1688. His coffeehouse was frequented by sailors, ship-owners, and merchants, so he tailored the news he provided accordingly. Lloyd's became the "third place" for the shipping industry and customers forged insurance deals over coffee and cake. And they didn't even need highchairs, WiFi, or change for the parking meter.

Lloyd's moved to Lombard Street in 1691 and, despite Edward's death in 1713, continued to trade until 1774, when the coffee side of things subsided and The Society of Lloyd's was formed. They're one of those City corporations akin to what we see in The Wolf of Wall Street and an alien concept to us seaside-dwellers. They have members and brokers and underwriters and a whole dictionary of City-speak to help the Oxbridge grads sound more grown-up.

Put simply, they deal in insurance. Therefore, they are affected by natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and good old-fashioned asbestos. They've notably insured some pretty weird stuff in their time - from Marlene Dietrich's legs and Egon Ronay's taste buds, to Merv Hughes's walrus moustache and even a grain of rice.

The original Lloyd's of London shopfront is now in the National Maritime Museum and there's one of those blue commemorative plates on the Lombard Street building. It's currently a Sainsbury's, which is a shame, but at least it's not a Tesco.

From humble coffeehouse beginnings, Lloyd's now occupies a massive office building on Lime Street, which you've seen if you were subjected to the Mamma Mia! film. It's the office which Pierce Brosnan leaves in "New York" before heading to the Greek island and humiliating himself through the medium of song and ensuring he never gets cast in a musical again.