In America, coffee culture has been evolving since the Colonial era. From early imports of Jamaican coffee to the rise of Starbucks in the 1990s, coffee has been America’s favorite morning beverage for centuries. Here’s a brief history of how American coffee culture has changed and evolved over time.
The Early Years: 1600-1700s
Coffee first made its way to America in the 1600s when the Dutch began selling it out of their colony in New Amsterdam (now known as New York City). At first, coffee was consumed mainly by wealthy citizens who could afford to import it from overseas. However, that changed in 1696 when French Huguenot immigrants brought coffee plants to Charleston, South Carolina. These plants quickly began to thrive in the American climate, and by 1713 more than 500 coffee trees were growing in the colonies.
As coffee became more widely available, it also became more popular. In the 1700s, several British-American writers praised coffee for its energizing effects and compared it favorably to alcohol. Coffee houses, a mix of tavern, inn, and cafe, became a staple of Colonial America. George Washington even had a ceremonial luncheon at a coffee house in 1784, preceding his return after the Revolutionary War. As coffee became increasingly popular across Colonial America, it slowly made its way into homes, became a staple breakfast beverage, and even replaced tea as an afternoon drink.
By the mid-18th century, coffeehouses had become popular gathering places for Americans of all social classes to drink coffee, chat with friends, and read the latest news. Many traditions associated with American coffee culture were established during this time, such as adding milk and sugar to the coffee.
The 1800s: The Rise of Commercial Coffee Production
In the 1800s, America’s love affair with coffee continued to grow. The first commercial coffee roaster was established in 1865, marking the beginning of a new era in which mass-produced roasted beans became available to consumers. At the same time, advances in shipping technology meant that green beans from abroad could be imported more easily and quickly roasted on American shores. By 1900, more than 2200 commercial roasters were operating in the United States.
The early 20th century also saw the rise of instant coffee, which Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato invented in 1901. Instant coffee quickly became popular with Americans looking for a quick and easy way to make a cup of joe. During World War II, instant coffee was even included in soldiers’ rations so that they could have a taste of home no matter where they were stationed.
The Late 20th Century: The Rise of Specialty Coffee
In 1971, Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This marked the beginning of the specialty coffee movement in America. In addition to offering high-quality beans and brewing methods, Starbucks introduced new ways for Americans to enjoy their coffee, such as flavored syrups and frappuccinos. As Starbucks expanded throughout the United States (and beyond), other specialty cafes followed suit, introducing Americans to a new world of gourmet coffees and delectable pastries.
Coffee Culture in Present-Day America
Today, coffee is more popular than ever before. In addition to the rise of specialty cafes, there has also been a renewed interest in home brewing methods such as pour-over and French press. This has led to a boom in the sale of coffee makers, grinders, and other brewing equipment. And as Americans continue to find new and innovative ways to enjoy their coffee, it’s safe to say that the nation’s love affair with this delicious beverage is here to stay.
Today, more than 15000 Starbucks stores in America serve millions of customers daily. In addition to Starbucks, countless other specialty cafes serve delicious cups of java from coast to coast. From its humble beginnings in colonial America to its current status as a national obsession, coffee has come a long way in this country. And if recent trends are any indication, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon!