The original coffee table, simply put, is a regular table with its legs cut off to make it lower to the ground. The Japanese already had these short tables figured out a long time ago. But as the Japanese were sitting on the floors with their legs crossed, the coffee table was to be used with a sofa. Its not very clear as to the exact time that the modern term "coffee table" came to use, but some put it around the late 18th century to the early 19th.
Whatever the case, if it was the decision of the British, or even Chinese, wed be calling it "tea table" today. And actually in those lands they do often use that term. But as the fact stands, the cup that most often lands on American tables is filled with coffee, and so the name has stuck. So here we have it, the modern coffee table, now more popular then ever. And its true it doesnt really matter where it gets its name, I mean some people wont even let you put coffee on their supposed "coffee" table. But its just neat to see how things have come a long way and evolved through time.
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