HISTORY OF NATIONAL COFFEE DAY
The history of National Coffee Day seems a bit, well, cloudy. We believe September 29 came about as a jolting reminder to get back to work following a long summer — even though it’s a full week after the first day of fall. After all, Americans have turned procrastination into an art form.
On the other hand, the history of coffee itself clearly goes back to 15th century Yemen. (Check out Dave Eggers’ recent book for a fascinating look at how it all went down.) As for Europeans, they got their first taste about 100 years later — with Venice leading the way. Per the National Coffee Association, it wasn’t a smooth ride: “Some people reacted to this new beverage with suspicion or fear, calling it the ‘bitter invention of Satan.’ The local clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the beverage for himself before making a decision, and found the drink so satisfying that he gave it papal approval.”
Mainland Europe’s first official coffeehouse (no, they didn’t serve lattes) opened in Venice around 1645.
Back in the U.S., if it weren’t for the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Americans may never have swapped tea for coffee. When the colonies revolted against King George III’s hefty tea tax, tea was out and coffee was in. Things really started to percolate in the mid 1800s when brothers John and Charles Arbuckle started selling coffee to cowboys in the American West. James Folger successfully introduced coffee to gold miners in California. Upon returning to San Francisco in 1865, Folger became a full partner of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills — which eventually became the J.A. Folger & Co. in 1872.
Other brands including Maxwell House and Hills Brothers soon entered the coffee market. A yearning for “speciality” coffee took hold in the 1960s and a little Seattle company called Starbucks changed everything in 1971. Today the U.S. coffee shop market has grown to a $45.4 billion industry, according to Allegra World Coffee Portal’s 2019 Project Café USA report. Dry coffee sales topped $9 billion in 2017 in the U.S.
Thanks King George III!