The History of Coffee in America
The Boston Tea Party
Coffee came to America with the tastes of the British. In the middle 1700s, tea and coffee were equally favored and many taverns doubled as coffee houses. This all changed as a result of the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773. No tea was actually consumed at this "tea party" but a large shipment of tea was dumped into Boston harbor to protest the British tax on tea, proclaiming "no taxation without representation". Thereafter it was unpatriotic to drink tea. Colonists soon found that they could import coffee grown in Central and South America and by the beginning of the 1900s, America was consuming 1/2 of all coffee produced in the world.
Early on, coffee was prepared in America in a similar manner to how it was prepared in Ethiopia. Green beans were roasted over a stove, ground in a mortar and pestle and then boiled on the stove until done. This didn't have the same ceremony that Ethiopia had - it was just the common and simple method of brewing coffee. This method is called "Cowboy Coffee" today - used the longest by real cowboys on cattle drives and frontier camps of the early West, who had only a campfire, a hand grinder and a large pot to make coffee. Typical camp supplies were bags of pre-roasted coffee and a hand powered grinder. One coffee company, 'Arbuckle's Coffee' put a peppermint stick in each bag of coffee. Camp cooks rarely had to grind the coffee, as the cowboys would volunteer to grind the coffee -- as long as they got to keep the peppermint stick.
The Coffee Percolator
James Mason patented the first American coffee percolator in 1865. It still boils the coffee – over and over the boiling coffee is passed over coffee grounds in a basket until it gains enough strength. The electric percolators, which came out around 1910, were very popular with the day’s busy housewife because the coffee maker could now “watch itself” and be trusted not to boil over on the stove. Coffee percolators could also be scaled to very large sizes, making large pots of coffee all at one time.
Coffee and the Military
During World War I, American soldiers were accustomed to drinking coffee - whether by large mugs from the mess hall percolators or dehydrated packets of coffee in their military rations – and heating it with the matches also included in the ration pack. The term "Cuppa Joe" came from "G.I. Joe" - who always had his coffee.
The Lunch Counter
American soldiers were so used to drinking coffee several times a day when they were overseas also consumed great amounts of coffee when they returned to the United States. Coffee houses became the new place to socialize. Coffee was still brewed in huge electric percolators - the only large scale brewing method of the time. When people wanted something to eat with their coffee, lunch counters and soda fountains were born.
Drip Coffee Makers
Drip coffee makers came on to the scene in the 1960s. They used a method similar to a percolator, drawing hot water up a tube and spraying it over the coffee, but they didn't re-circulate the coffee, the hot water dripped through ground coffee and into a waiting pot. The result was a much better tasting coffee than the percolator as well as an easier to clean appliance.
Travel Coffee Mug
The automobile sent people to the roads to explore the nation. All sorts of places to eat and drink, including coffee, sprang up to serve them. At that time drivers actually stopped to enjoy their coffee, which would soon change as drivers wanted to be able to take their coffee with them. Auto cup holders and Coffee Travel Mugs were a natural progression.
The Coffee Break
The British may have invented “Tea Time” but America invented the “Coffee Break”. The practice began in WW II era war effort factories to give workers a brief rest and a jolt of caffeine. Thanks to a clever advertising campaign in the mid 1950s by the Pan American Coffee Bureau, 70-80% of American workers were taking a coffee break – both factory and office workers. General Eisenhower used the coffee break idea for “Operation Coffee Cup” during his presidential campaign to meet with voters, which continued to spread the social trend of the coffee break.