why is a coffee table so called

Why is a Coffee Table So Called?

Coffee tables have been around for a long time. Despite the name, and the fact that it can actually be used for serving coffee, many people are surprised to learn that the so-called “coffee table” was not originally designed for coffee at all!

History of Coffee Tables

In the early 19th century, the use of coffee tables were more like a side table in a living room, where one would put books, magazines, and other items that were to be shared amongst family members and guests. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that coffee tables took on their modern-day moniker as a “table for coffee”.

The Rise of Afternoon Tea

The popularity of the coffee table was closely tied to the rise of afternoon tea in America’s more affluent households. Afternoon tea had been a European tradition since the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the Victorian era in England that it became popular in the U.S. These rituals typically included afternoon tea served on a low table, surrounded by a comfy sofa or armchairs. This formal affair required a table for guests to rest their cups and food items, hence, the “coffee table”.

Modern Usage

These days, coffee tables are used for a variety of purposes beyond serving coffee. They can be used as an accent piece to tie a room together, or provide storage space for books, magazines, and other items. Many come with additional features like:

  • Pull-out shelves for even more storage
  • Lift top designs, so one can easily eat at the table
  • Hidden compartments for stowing away remotes or other items

No matter what its purpose, the coffee table is a stylish and functional addition to any home.


Although it may be named coffee table, it has truly evolved far beyond its original purpose and is now a staple piece of furniture in many homes.

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