The Commercialization of Coffee

0 comments / Posted by Nick Hetcher


As interesting as coffee’s history and travels are, the commercialization of coffee here in America is equally interesting.

If you visit your local supermarket, you will find dozens of choices in the coffee aisle. From flavored coffees, mass produced brands and boutique coffees, to decaffeinated, instant and flavored coffees in all varieties. Coffee is so commonplace, that many of us are often surprised when we hear a friend or coworker say that they don’t drink it. Some people are even offended by that.

Coffee wasn’t always as popular or as commonplace here in America as it is now. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that coffee roasters and mills were seen locally in our cities. Soon, there were coffee shops, roasters and grinding mills on every street corner and coffee seemed to be taking off quickly. That is, until the Hills brothers began roasting coffee and packing it into vacuum tins keeping it fresher, longer. This all but destroyed the local roasting shop industry but built a well-known coffee manufacturer known today as Hills Brothers.

Just a short year later, in 1901, instant coffee was created by Japanese-American Chemist Satori Kato in Chicago, and only two years after that, a German coffee importer, Ludwig Roselius, decided to see if a batch of ruined coffee beans could be turned into something useful by his researchers. They found that the caffeine had been removed from the beans while rinsing them leaving all of the flavor but none of the pep. Their creation became known as Sanka.

Fast forward to 1920 and we see instant coffee, decaffeinated coffee and vacuum packed coffee in every home in America. The coffee industry seems to be growing and doing very well. Then, the American government put a ban on alcohol giving coffee even more reason to flourish and even become the national drink. Now, with nothing stopping coffee from taking over the world, sales grew and it became more commercialized than ever. In 1940, the United States began regularly importing 70% of the world coffee crop for itself and even supplied coffee, Maxwell House Instant, to American soldiers fighting in World War II.

Let’s fast forward again, this time to 1971. The year that Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle’s Pike Place public market. This gave coffee another boost cementing it as the world’s most popular drink and one of the most successfully traded commodities. From 1995 to 2000, coffee consumption skyrockets once more, rising a whopping 700%. Now, most everyone is drinking coffee and not just for breakfast. Starbucks made coffee popular to drink any time of day and with more than just some cream and sugar in it.

With some products, commercialization is bad, but with coffee, commercialization has helped the industry grow and given coffee lovers a wide range of choices at their local coffee shops, supermarkets and restaurants.


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