Public Domain Images – Lewis Hine National Child Labor Committee Collection

Public Domain Images – Lewis Hine National Child Labor Committee Collection


When Tomas Jefferson described coffee as "the beverage of the civilized world" his quasi prophetic proclamation was certainly not far away from the truth.

Coffee provides energy and pleases our palate with its intense flavor and distinct aroma.  The coffee’s historical journey, from Ethiopia to the first espresso machines and from the regular black coffee to the specialty coffee houses of the world is a long and exciting one. We've previously looked at the history of the beans and the horticultural origins of coffee on our previous blog posts but on this entry we will focus on some of the reasons behind why Americans love coffee so much!

Historically speaking ...

For Americans, coffee has been a necessity of life. Its history relates not only to the history of Independence and American patriotism, but also to the history and evolution of American entrepreneurship, the country’s social changes, and the evolution of its industrial infrastructure and trade relations.

America has always been a land of opportunity and new ideas. The drive behind an emerging nation was the multitude of its people as well as the ideas of freedom and liberty. Those very ideas that drove independence also drove another kind of revolution which in turn informed trade and technological advancement. Along with the rest of the globe advancing technologically during the 18th and 19th century America would not be left behind. Advancements were made pretty much in every aspect of human activity including the production of foodstuffs and of course coffee.

There are perhaps 4 main factors that contributed to the spread of coffee in America and its establishment as a national drink.


after the historical events of 1773, the sabotage of tea drinking was considered an "American patriotic duty" as we've seen in our previous entry on how coffee migrated to the United States. Coffee proved to be the perfect substitute, with instant coffee being the quick and easy solution for a rapidly advancing nation over the more traditional and cumbersome tea of yesterday


 the industrial revolution altered the eating habits and labor standards of the human population around the globe. The spirit of pioneering business people though undoubtedly also changed the human condition itself. Entrepreneurship drove changes in the way we understand and consume food by offering solutions to problems ranging from production to distribution on a global scale


as a result of a rapid reduction in its cost, coffee ceased being a privilege merely enjoyed by the few and soon became a commodity that could be easily accessed by virtually anyone. This democratisation of coffee as a commodity brought with it, in the finest American tradition, a whole host of free market competition thus reducing the price of coffee dramatically


 the development of technology for roasting, griding, and manufacturing coffee added to its taste which in turn led to coffee becoming very widely available and therefore aided its vast spread. This strand also stems from the entrepreneurial spirit of generations of Americans striving for a better product and better business and a better future. 

 Infantry Resting From Drills - By War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer - Circa 1866  -   National Archives - Identifier: 524639

Infantry Resting From Drills - By War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer - Circa 1866 National Archives - Identifier:524639

The Civil War and several other conflicts that followed also contributed to the fact that coffee consumption increased tremendously, as soldiers relied on caffeine for a boost of energy. During that turbulent period, soldiers used to drink coffee before and after their marches, patrols, and watchtower duties. A little "unknown" fact is that soldiers of the period also drank coffee during battle. In surviving diaries from the Civil War, the word "coffee" occurs more often than the word "weapon", "cannon" or "bullet".  The troops consumed large amounts of the drink, preparing it by any means available given the circumstances.

By the late 1800s, coffee had become a worldwide commodity, forcing entrepreneurs to seek news ways to profit from the beverage’s popularity. The cumulative effects of coffee consumption on the human body were well documented by now, thus the ever greater need for beverages that stimulate workers and boost their productivity was nicely fulfilled by the consumption of coffee.  Given coffees tonic properties and the fact that the positive boost was socially more acceptable as opposed to those of alcohol and tobacco, it was not before long that coffee became the go-to product of the business world.

Join us again on the next of the series when we explore how coffee spread throughout the land after the Civil war and we begin to discuss the ideas behind why coffee is so well established in the American psyche. Thanks for reading and remember to subscribe to our blog below to get regular updates of our posts.