Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bonus Post: Arbuckle's Ariosa, the Coffee that Won the West

For your enjoyment, a bonus post for the Fourth of July. This post isn't strictly related to Colorado, or California, or even cycling, but instead to an essential factor in United States consumer and social culture, the conquest of the Wild West in either state, and bicycling endeavors across the globe...coffee.

In 1773 the drinking of coffee in the United States became a patriotic duty, following the actions of the Boston Tea Party and the rejection of British tea by the citizenry. In fact, it was declared the national drink of the United States by the Continental Congress in protest to the excessive taxes levied on tea by the British government. Our love affair with the brew continued through the first half of the nineteenth century and, following the events of the Civil War, was at an all time high. By 1900 the United States was consuming nearly half of the coffee produced in the world.

Arbuckle's Ariosa Coffee
Coffee preparation at this time didn't vary much from the manner in which Ethiopian tribesmen, the first coffee drinkers, prepared their brew. Beans were dry roasted in a pan, crushed or milled, and then boiled in a kettle. Things began to change around 1865 when the Arbuckle brothers, John and Charles, patented a method to coat roasted coffee beans with a mixture of eggs and sugar. This effectively sealed the beans and prevented further oxidization, meaning that the beans could be packaged, shipped, and still retain their flavor upon their arrival at their destination. One-pound bags of Arbuckle's Ariosa Coffee quickly became a common sight out west, where ranch cooks were expected to keep copious amounts of coffee hot and ready for hard working cowboys. The Arbuckle brothers were intelligent marketers and included all manner of coupons in their packages of coffee, for everything from bandanas, to shirts, to wedding rings. Also included inside every package was a stick of peppermint candy. The upshot to this was that hard-pressed cooks rarely had to mill the coffee themselves, since someone could usually be found who would do the work in exchange for the candy.

By 1910 the electric percolator had been invented and coffee preparation had gone both into the home, where housewives didn't have to watch over a pot of boiling coffee any longer, and into large-scale cafeterias, where large electric percolators brewed coffee for dozens of people at a time. By the start of World War I instant coffee was on the scene and was sent overseas as a part of every U.S. serviceman's kit. The phrase "cup of joe" comes from "G.I. Joe", World War I slang for American soldiers who always had their mugs of coffee with them.

The American craze for coffee, usually drank several times throughout the day, gave birth to lunch counters and soda fountains during the inter-war years. In the 1920s, during Prohibition, American coffee consumption boomed. By the 1940s, American consumers were drinking 70 percent of the coffee brewed worldwide. U.S. soldiers sent overseas during World War II had packages of instant Maxwell House Coffee included in their mess kits. American's relationship with coffee was so intense that widespread coffee hoarding during World War II eventually led to its being rationed by the U.S. government.

The "coffee break" is an American invention as well, created by factory owners during World War II in order to give their employees a short break and a much needed jolt of caffeine. The Pan American Coffee Bureau got into the act as well, launching a campaign in the mid-1950s to encourage coffee breaks in the work place and develop the consumption of Central and South American Arabica coffee, in which it had a controlling interest. After all, what could be more American than having our leisure time dictated by controlling corporate interests? By the end of the decade the Pan American Coffee Bureau reported that 70 to 80 percent of American workers were taking at least one coffee break per work day. President Eisenhower even leapt on the bandwagon, developing a plan he called "Operation Coffee Cup" during his presidential campaign and using informal coffee breaks and sit-downs in order to meet and talk with voters.


Getting There By Bike...
An essential part of this blog, "Getting There By Bike", wouldn't be possible without coffee. I'll raise my cup to all of you and wish you a happy Fourth of July. As always, thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Stellar article! I've been roasting my own for the past few months, but I am not ready to use eggs or sugar, seems risky! I didn't know you were back on the bean. If memory serves a caffeine free Sam can be called drinking his peppermint tea, whilst I my cuppa dark no cream no sugar. What a thing.

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