A cup-of-joe to the world: short history of coffee drinking in the United States

Coffee co-existed in every culture and diet since ancient times, where people from various races and tribes had included this concoction to everyday living. As this necessity has made an earlier influence in some lands such as Ethiopia [where coffee has originated], Arabia, Asia, and South America, coffee has just become popular in the United States in the late 1700s.

In a study performed by Reuters, commissioned by the National Coffee Association in the U.S., a survey of 3,000 participants showed that 64% of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day. It would be around 210 million out of 328.2 million population (as of the year 2019), making the U.S. one of the biggest coffee consumers in the world today.

Understanding further, let us go back in time to learn how this simple brew has captured the heart of Americans and entered its way to the American breakfast table.


Captain John Smith Coffee in the north Americas

An English soldier, explorer, and colonial governor, Captain John Smith was the first to bring knowledge of coffee to North America. He introduced it to other settlers of Jamestown in his founded colony of Virginia. While coffee was well-known in other countries such as turkey where smith traveled, it was not as famous as tea among the early settlers.


Dorothy Jones became the first person to receive a license to sell coffee in early Boston. Tracing back in history where there was rampant discrimination of the economic and non-economic role of women in the U.S., Dorothy Jones acted boldly. She received her license not only for local but also for international coffee trade, and she became one of the first successful women entrepreneurs written in American history.


Boston Tea Party American Coffee Drinking History

The Boston Tea Party was a protest of American patriots and colonists strongly opposed to the Townshend Act of 1767, wherein the British government has placed an indirect tax on glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea from British colonies in America. As a consequence, the American colonists threw 342 chests of tea in Boston Harbor. It has caused increased popularity of coffee as drinking tea was then considered unpatriotic.

The mid-1800s

Cowboy Coffee

Some Americans appreciated the benefits of caffeine and moved west in pursuance of a new way of life. As America has begun to expand throughout the mid-1800s, ranchers, frontiersmen, and pioneers traveling to the West took on the coffee-drinking customs of the East by brewing coffee in open containers over campfires. People named it the "Cowboy Coffee." From there on, coffee drinking has become a lifestyle from the majority of Americans.


American Civil War

People used coffee to boost the confidence of American soldiers during the American Civil war from 1861-1865. It has helped the soldiers to maintain their vigilance during training, watching duty at night in their posts, and even battles. As a result, following the war, men continued the manner of drinking coffee, especially in the morning.


George Constant Louis Washington Coffee

A Belgian-born American inventor, namely Mr. George Constant Louis Washington, became an influential military supplier during World War I. He began to mass-produce instant coffee for the military to lessen the time of the brewing process during the war. He supplied the army and established a company called G. Washington Coffee. He named the product, "A cup of George."


Coffee and Doughnuts

The Great Depression marked the world's worst economic downturn that took place mostly around the 1930s. Soup kitchens existed in the community to support the unemployed workers that need basic daily food and drinks. They provided free coffee and doughnuts, and matching these two things became popular even after world war II.


The U.S. Government began to control coffee consumption among Americans at home so that soldiers overseas would always have a regular supply of coffee during the war. By 1942, there was a nationwide coffee distribution effort, that only allows the Americans to consume one pound of coffee every five weeks.



The Pike Place Starbucks Store or the first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Washington, United States. Founded by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl, Starbucks became a national symbol of second-wave coffee in the country. With around 31,000 stores around the globe, it is considered the largest coffeehouse chain in the world.

Fairtrade coffee

Fairtrade Coffee

Fairtrade coffee is coffee produced to guidelines by fair trade organizations to accomplish greater equality in worldwide trade. Fairtrade organizations support producers and sustain environmental farming practices that prohibit child and forced labor. These partnerships maintain growth in the coffee sector by providing better trading conditions to coffee bean farmers. In 2009, 50% of American households were aware of fairtrade coffee. Global sales rose to nearly 9.2 Billion USD in 2017. The U.S. now ranks the third-largest market for fairtrade goods.

Today coffee is a 36 billion USD industry in America and unwaveringly growing. In a recent study, 64% of Americans say that they drink at least 3-4 cups of coffee a day. 79% of them drink coffee at home.

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