History of American Coffee Culture

Coffee can be the loving morning pick-me-up, the hated jitter facilitator, or a night owl’s best friend. All around the world people wake up with a mutual thought process of “coffee”. But what started the massive expansion of American coffee culture?

When I think about the beginning of coffee history in America, I presume it all began during the American Revolution.

The beginning of American Coffee Culture

Tensions had been rising between Britain and the American colonists of the New World due to increased taxation.

British parliament had introduced taxes on fundamental needs for the people including the Sugar tax and the newly introduced tea tax.

In 1773, the Boston Tea party marked a crucial day for coffee-loving Americans.

The american colonists who had been sent to the New World from Britain carried on the affinity that British people have for tea. Thus, shipments of tea were sent over onboard ships with British soldiers.

On December 16th, 1773, angry and frustrated American colonists raided a British ship and dumped 342 barrels of tea into the Boston harbor. After the Boston Tea party, American colonists switched their drink of choice from tea to coffee as a political statement.

The conflicts that followed the American Revolution also helped to increase the popularity of coffee. Soldiers and workers began to rely on coffee for the additional caffeinated boost of energy.

The popularity of coffee landed in the American colonies much after it had impacted the rest of the world. However, by the late 1800s, the new American entrepreneurs knew that coffee was the business to be in.

US Coffee Culture Expansion

In 1864, John and Charles Arbuckle were two brothers who saw the success of coffee expansion and revolutionized the coffee roasting business. At the time, coffee beans were roasted and sold in stores in bulk-quantities.

Nevertheless, customers would request an amount and the grocer would scoop the amount of beans into a small package. The Arbuckles noticed many flaws with this method noting that the coffee was left open after roasting which decreased the quality of the bean. Additionally, high quality beans mixed up with lower quality coffee beans.

The two brothers purchased the newly invented self-emptying coffee bean roaster and worked to eliminate the current problems in the coffee market. Instead of grocer directed coffee sales, they began to roast their own coffee and wrapped it in individual packages specifying the weight and quality.

They named their pre-package coffee brand ‘Ariosa’ and profited from their sales to cowboys in the western part of America.

Soon after the Arbuckle brothers’ success, James Folger began selling his own coffee to the gold miners in California. This led the way for several other coffee entrepreneurs to become big name coffee producers in America.

Instant Coffee

In 1901, the Japanese-American inventor Satori Kato created the first successful coffee powder later known as “instant coffee”. In 1910, the first commercial brands of instant coffee were introduced to the market.

When World-War 1 began in 1914, instant coffee became very popular in the United States and was frequently bought in mass quantity and rationed amongst the soldiers. This continued to trend again during World-War 2.

Nescafe was one of the few brands of instant coffee that gained popularity during the war. It was in such high demand amongst soldiers that one year, an entire production from the U.S. plant went solely to the U.S. military.

Advertisement and the introduction of “a coffee break”

By the 1950’s, advertisements in the United States developed the idea of a “coffee break” which became widely popular.

In 1952, an advertisement campaign introduced the idea of a “coffee break”. The campaign was so widely successful that within months, U.S. companies began to introduce a “coffee break” into their employees’ work schedule.

american coffee culture
“Give Yourself a Coffee-Break – and Get What Coffee Gives to You” Ad Campaign.
Source: Business Insider

Coffee Houses

Soon after, coffee became the drink of choice amongst teenagers who frequented small cafes and coffee houses.

Coffee Houses began to serve an important role in the development of American coffee culture. Coffee houses introduced the American people to a new place to share ideas, listen to performers, and share a space with people they might not otherwise meet.

The Starbucks Boom

In the 1960s, the popularity of coffee houses and specialty coffee continued to rise. As a result, this inspired the first Starbucks to open in Seattle, Washington in 1971.

At first, Starbucks only sold whole roasted coffee beans and did not originally sell brewed coffee. Later on, in 1982, the first Starbucks opened that sold brewed coffee.

By 1989, Starbucks had expanded and opened 46 stores nationwide across the United States and Canada. Ever since, the coffee enterprise exploded into an international phenomenon.

Other coffee competitors such as Seattle’s best coffee and Torrefazione Italia were purchased by Starbucks in 2003.

Growth in Specialty Coffee Shops

Although Starbucks remains one of the most frequently seen landmarks in the coffee community, there was also a rise in small cafes competing with the coffee enterprise.

Coffee houses continued to pop-up amongst the rise of Starbucks, because local shops offer something beyond coffee.

Local coffee shops are a valuable part of every american community. As soon as they offer a meeting place to connect with people outside of where you work or live.

Coffee Today

Today, the coffee movement is still alive and thriving in even the smallest American cities. There is still a rise in small-owned cafes that boast sustainable, fair-trade coffee beans.

Obviously, coffee Houses continue to provide a safe space for students, musicians, authors, and artists.

Each coffee drinker has their own personalized coffee preference from dark coffee to frivolous additions, but ultimately the powerful beverage alone unifies people.

As a matter of fact, it is estimated that the average American drinks 3 cups of coffee per day.

New Yorkers are said to drink 7 times the amount of any other U.S. city, which explains the surplus coffee chains on every corner of the city.

Coffee continues to be one of the most widely consumed beverages in the United States. It is undeniably the morning cup that most Americans drink to begin each day.

Coffee rose to power in the United States during a turbulent political climate, and continues to defy borders and political divides through it’s universal allure.

Read more: The History Of Americano

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