American people rarely drink their coffee with milk but are known to have a ‘sweet tooth’ which means that they like to add sugar to their drinks. There are various styles of coffee served today in the US. One of those styles is the Americano.
The Americano is without doubt the most favored hot beverage drink of the American people today.
Coffee was introduced into the US during colonization in 1492 by Europeans, mainly the Spanish. Although coffee shops were established in the mid-17th century (1650), they however remained unpopular as tea was the most common hot beverage. It was not until the Boston Tea Party in 1773 that coffee started to become popular amongst the American people.
The Boston Tea Party was held as a revolt against the King of England, King George III, for imposing taxes on tea exported from the UK to the US. This made tea more expensive than coffee and so people turned to drinking coffee instead and the demand for coffee flourished.
By the 18th Century, coffee consumption and the popularity of drinkers in the US grew so much that coffee became one of the world’s most profitable commodities.
In 1864, pre-roasted ground coffee (instant coffee) was introduced into the US market and made many people very rich as a result. It became so popular, primarily because it was so easy and quick to make into a beverage, however, instant coffee has since lost its appeal to the US people due to the likes of chain stores offering fast-drink solutions, for instance, Starbucks, Highlands Coffee, Costa Coffee etc.
The Americano and The War
During the time of World War II (1939-45), Americans were used to drinking filtered coffee in the US. Filtered coffee is made by dripping hot water through a filter containing ground coffee beans.
Filtered coffee is much weaker in taste than espresso coffee because it contains much more water.
Coffee was rationed during World War II, mostly in Europe, as it was a scarce commodity and not freely available to the people. However, because the American military personnel drank so much coffee, the US-based military office would grind, package and send coffee from the US to Europe for consumption by the military personnel. This was becoming more difficult and time-consuming, so this action was soon stopped.
Therefore, the military personnel with their love for coffee had only two choices available 1) stop drinking coffee or 2) source coffee locally. Luckily, for those based in Italy, where Italians love drinking coffee as much as their wine, coffee was still freely available to purchase and not under ration constraints.
The Italians primarily drank two types of coffee, Espresso and Cappuccino. Both of these coffees are served hot. A properly made espresso (coffee shot) would have a slightly frothy creamy layer on top, known as “crema” and is served in a small glass. A cappuccino, is made by first using an espresso shot but then by adding hot steamed frothy milk, it is also served in a small glass.
So, given these two choices available, it was the espresso that was the most similar coffee to that which was drank in the US ordinarily, although it was served in a much smaller glass, it was still the preferred option over the cappuccino.
The Birth of the Americano
Although the espresso was more closely matched to the filtered coffee drank in the US, the military personnel found espresso coffee to be too intense for their palate in terms of acidity and bitterness.
So, to remedy this, the military personnel would request a larger glass with additional hot water. This new style of hot beverage was the birth of what we now refer to as the Americano.
Although Americans were not used to having sugar in their filtered coffee back in their homeland, sugar was also often added for American military personnel to counteract the natural bitterness of Italian coffee.
A common myth is that an Americano is a weaker coffee than others, because it is served in a larger glass containing additional hot water. But in fact, it contains the same amount of caffeine as an Espresso.
Remember it is the caffeine that provides the body with the stimulation, the energizing lift, so an Americano simply tastes weaker (less bitter and acidic) but still has the same caffeine strength as other smaller served coffees!
No single person has been truly identified as the originator. However, we know that the Americano in its present form originated at the request of the American military personnel based in Italy in December 1941 when the US first entered World War II.
This new style of coffee remained nameless for many years. The name Americano was not introduced until much later than it was initially created and consumed. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the name Americano was introduced.
Chain operated fast serving coffee shops like Starbucks first opened in 1971 in Seattle, US and began offering a wide variety of different coffees to suit each unique palate to cater for every customer. The range of different coffees available today is over fifteen. There are now variations of the Americano also available, known as Lungo, Caffe Crema, Red Eye and Iced Americano.
Coffee consumption will surely only increase in popularity as more and more boutique coffee shops are opening and attract customers wanting a common place to meet friends and conduct business appointments.