The name "coffeehouse" is derived from the limited menu which is typically available at the social event: coffee is usually the featured beverage, together with other non-alcoholic beverages such as soda, juice and tea. Desserts and snack foods may round out the menu.
Folk music and other acoustic concerts are the primary activity at many coffee houses. Other coffeehouses allow patrons to sing, dance, read poetry, perform stand-up comedy, or demonstrate other talents as entertainment during the event. Still other coffeehouses feature lectures and presentations to raise awareness about social issues such as political oppression, food / freshwater shortages, and/or outbreaks of disease in various countries. Some coffeehouses may facilitate other activities such as a mass letter writing campaign or signing petitions.
Some coffeehouses have free admission, but others require a small entrance fee. If money is collected as an entrance fee, it is often donated in whole or in part to the social cause, after covering expenses.
Coffeehouses are often sponsored by a permanent, semi-commercial coffeehouse venue, such as the well-known Club Passim and Caffe Lena. Churches, non-profits, school groups, and other private groups also sponsor coffee houses in church meeting rooms, colleges, and high schools. In particular, schools often sponsor coffeehouses to allow students to socialize in an explicitly non-alcoholic environment.
See also 
- English coffeehouses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
- Salon (gathering)
- Social center
- Viennese coffee house
- Harrisburg Horizons Newspaper Article "A Cup of Cheer"
- Boston Area Coffeehouse Association (BACHA)
- The University of the Streets Cafés, from Concordia University, Montreal
- Coffee House Rendezvous: Youth Culture in the 1960s on YouTube, a short documentary film on 1960s coffeehouses
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