Coffee in America – The Incredible Story

Did you know that the United States is one of the largest coffee consumers in the world?

Origin of coffee in the United States

To retrace the origins of coffee in the United States, we need to talk about the following key moments:


British Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia Hill, introduces coffee to America. He had met him on his travels in Turkey. The popularity of the coffee was not initially expected. Americans were used to drinking tea, beer, and green cider.


In New York, a drink made from roasted coffee beans and flavored with cinnamon and honey is made for the first time.


In Boston, Dorothy Jones becomes the first person to be licensed to sell coffee in the English colonies. She receives official permission to sell both coffee and chocolate in her tavern.


The first coffee house in the colonies, The London Coffee House, opens. After the revolution it is renamed The American Coffee House.


Taverns start working as coffee houses. However, tea remains the preferred drink of the people as coffee is still seen as only a drink for the affluent.

18th Century – Coffee houses are established in the colonies


Merchant Coffee House opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a coffee house frequented by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Paul Revere, and others. Even the first Continental Congress held sessions there.


Sons decide of Liberty, a group of merchants and traders formed to protest Britain’s new tea taxes, were allowed to dress up as Native Americans and board ships anchored in Boston Harbor. There they threw 342 crates of tea (an amount worth about $1 million today) into the water, showing their direct opposition to the tea tax.

The uprising defined the fate of coffee in the United States and became known as the Boston Tea Party. From that moment on, drinking tea was considered an unpatriotic act.

For this reason, Britain began to be referred to as the tea drinking country and America as the coffee drinking country.


Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, wrote in a letter to a friend that coffee would become the drink of the civilized world.


Andrew Jackson replaces the alcohol with coffee in the soldiers’ rations when he discovers that coffee can also keep the soldiers awake.


The Pioneers Steam Coffee and Spice Mills, a company that sells mass-produced roasted beans, is founded. Years later it will change its name to Folger’s Coffee.

1861 – 1865

During the Civil War, coffee was used to boost soldiers’ morale and keep them alert during exercises, marches, and battles.


Enterprising brothers Charles and John Arbukle start selling bags of pre-roasted coffee in Pittsburgh to supply coffee to cowboys and travelers heading west.


Coffee companies began creating a variety of brands to market and sell to capitalize on coffee’s popularity with Americans. Companies like Maxwell House began to position themselves heavily in the coffee industry. Maxwell House was even highlighted by President Theodore Roosevelt.


During World War I, American soldiers consumed thousands of pounds of coffee daily to motivate themselves on the battlefield. Companies developed brands of instant coffee so soldiers could easily make coffee on the battlefield.


The United States becomes the world’s largest coffee consumer, consuming more than half of the coffee produced worldwide. This is mainly due to the First World War, which had significant economic consequences for European countries.


Soup kitchens are springing up in the neighborhoods to help workers who have been made unemployed by the global economic crisis. These soup kitchens offer free donuts and coffee, a combination that would later become an American tradition.

1939 – 1945

During World War II, the United States government restricted coffee imports as all available ships were used in the war effort.


Coffee roasters restrict coffee deliveries. Also, the Office of Price Administration announced that coffee rationing would begin. For this reason, the same amounts were provided to all citizens (1 pound of coffee every 5 weeks for everyone over 15 years old) after giving priority to the military. It is important to note that coffee consumption was highest prior to this regulation.

In fact, an average of up to 20 pounds of coffee has been consumed per year per adult.

This changed when the quantity was reduced to 10 pounds. So, coffee drinkers had to get used to drinking only half as much coffee as before.

People had to start rationing coffee, using smaller amounts and mixing it with additives like chicory.


Rationing tightened in February and the coffee ration was reduced to one pound every six weeks. Americans support the war effort, but the coffee shortages have been severe enough.

1950 – 1960

TV stations start airing various commercials to encourage people to incorporate coffee into their daily lives.


Peet’s Coffee opens in California, the first major coffee shop chain.

1960 – 1980

There are numerous disagreements between the United States and Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer. This led to a collapse of the coffee market and at the same time the introduction of the Fair-Trade label with the aim of improving the livelihood of the coffee farmers and the quality of the coffee.

1960 – 1989

The International Coffee Agreement (ICA) regulates the coffee trade through a system of quotas and stock levels.


Foundation of Starbucks in Seattle.


The ICA’s economic clauses are suspended and world coffee prices fall by half to less than 80 cents a pound.

1990 – present

Coffee is evolving and the focus is on developing high-quality coffee beans and beverages.

Small coffee shops with experienced baristas are becoming popular. In addition, agricultural techniques are greatly improved and new alternative methods of coffee preparation are emerging.

Coffee production in the United States

In the United States, coffee can be grown in two main places: Hawaii and the state of California. Coffee has also been grown in Puerto Rico, a US territory, for almost 300 years.


  • More than 70 coffee farms are under the direction of Jay Ruskey, the founder of Frinj Coffee. Together, the farms have planted more than 100,000 coffee trees in southern and central California.
  • In the state of California, there are more than 30,000 coffee trees in the Santa Barbara and San Diego regions.
  • The state of California does not meet the ideal rainfall for coffee growing, receiving only 15 to 30 inches of rain per year, while the required rainfall should be between 102 and 152. This is because irrigation is required to make up for the rainfall deficit, which increases production costs.


  • Hawaii is home to Kona, one of the most expensive types of coffee due to the black volcanic soil. As a reminder, Kona is a district of Hawaii where Kona coffee is grown and processed, primarily in late winter and early spring.
  • Hawaii has a privileged climate with fertile soil and volcanic soil suitable for the coffee plant.
  • Coffee is grown in Hawaii all year round. Especially after the summer.
  • Hawaii has about 7,000 acres of land that can be used to grow coffee.
  • Coffee was introduced to Hawaii more than 200 years ago.
  • According to World Coffee Research, 5.12 million pounds of coffee (about 38,000 bags) were produced in Hawaii in 2020.

Puerto Rico

  • Coffee arrived in Puerto Rico in 1750 and has been grown ever since, mostly Arabica, with the Catimor , Bourbon, Typica , and Pacas varieties being prominent.
  • Puerto Rico was the sixth largest producer of coffee in the 19th century.
  • Puerto Rico has ideal conditions for growing coffee: a tropical climate with temperatures around 28 °C and extremely fertile soil.
  • Climate change, the political situation and the high production costs have recently caused coffee cultivation in Puerto Rico to decline.

Interesting facts about coffee in the United States.

  • Coffee is a $36 billion industry in the United States.
  • Americans consume about 280.5 million cups per day, an average of 2.7 cups per day per person.
  • Many consider the Civil War to be the main trigger for coffee being considered the drink of America.
  • 64% of Americans drink coffee and many brew it at home. Women drink slightly more than men.
  • Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971.
  • In 1920, major US coffee roasters spent an estimated $3 million (equivalent to over $39 million today) for the entire year on marketing.
  • In 1924, Maxwell House spent $275,000 (equivalent to $4 million today) on marketing.
  • In the United States, Seattle is the second most caffeinated city after San Francisco.
  • September 29th is National Coffee Day in the United States. Many coffee shops offer free drinks to celebrate the day.
  • The first coffee brand in the United States was called the Arbuckle Brother Company and was founded in 1939 as the United States expanded westward. In fact, the Arbuckle Brother Company was the first company to sell coffee in America.
  • There are more than 800 coffee shops in the city of Seattle.
  • According to the International Coffee Organization, between October 2020 and September 2021, the United States purchased 27.7 million 60-kilogram bags.
  • The cities with the lowest price for a bag of coffee beans are Jacksonville, Florida; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • The cities with the highest price for a packet of coffee beans are Columbus, Ohio; Oakland, California and Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • According to the Washington Post, 44% of American coffee is consumed by young adults. In fact, young Americans are twice as likely to drink coffee as adults over the age of 60.
  • The cities with the cheapest cappuccinos are Newark, New Jersey, Irving, Texas and Aurora, Colorado.
  • The cities with the most expensive cappuccinos are Nashville, Tennessee, Mesa, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama.
  • The best coffee shops are in New York City and San Francisco, as they have the most coffee shops per capita.
  • There are more than 14,000 coffee shops in the United States.
  • the state with the largest number of coffee shops, with more than 2,500 coffee shops.
  • Theodore Roosevelt coined the Maxwell House slogan ” good to the last drop “.
  • Changes in coffee trends in the United States can have a major impact on the coffee industry worldwide as the North American country is one of the largest coffee consumers in the world.

Marketing in the History of Coffee in the United States

Over the years, marketing has been an essential element for people in the United States to gradually approach and consume coffee. Now, in order to better understand the role that advertising and marketing campaigns have played in the commercialization of coffee, it is important to consider the following moments:

  • Roastery Alexander Sheppard & Sons created the “Morning Sip ” coffee blend and advertised it in 1916 with slogans explaining the process of obtaining a better product.
    • “All you get is pure, sweet coffee”
    • “All bitterness is mechanically removed from Morning Sip coffee”
  • Morning Sip was so successful that in 1917 Alexander Sheppard & Sons had to build a new distribution center to meet demand.
  • From 1920 to 1940, coffee advertising was very present on radio stations and on billboards that flooded the streets. An example of this was The Maxwell House Show Boat radio show, which sold coffee to actors. This radio show was recognized as the most popular variety program in the United States from 1933 to 1935.
  • Show Boat’s success during this period resulted in the Maxwell House roastery increasing its sales by approximately 85%.
  • In 1945, instant coffee brand George Washington printed a famous ad with the slogan ” No coffee pot, no grounds, no waste ‘. This made it clear that the brands were trying to gain people’s trust by promising to solve their preparation problems.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the domestic marketing of coffee was greatly boosted thanks to television advertising. It should be noted that most of the commercials were aimed at women: “You need a good coffee to win your man’s heart”.
  • In the 1970s, marketing focused on the consumer and their relationship to coffee in everyday life. Because of this, various companies started using celebrities as intermediaries to reach out to people. For example, the famous baseball player Joe DiMaggio (one of Marilyn Monroe’s husbands) was the advertising medium for “Mr. Coffee”, an electric household coffee machine with which he was seen on television preparing coffee.
  • In the 1990s, marketing continued to focus on television and various commercials were shown trying to get people to know coffee. The most emblematic case is the “Gold Blend Couple”, a television campaign that ran between 1987 and 1993 for a total of 12 parts of 45 seconds each, starring Sharon Maughan and Anthony Head and telling the story of a couple who began a passionate romance over coffee.
  • This campaign was intended to convey a positive message about the role of coffee in romantic relationships and was indeed very well received by the American public, receiving a lot of support after its launch. Gold Blend couple ” is undoubtedly one of the most famous examples of serial advertising.
  • At the end of the century, Jean Paul Gaillard joined Nespresso from the tobacco company Philip Morris, where he began marketing the Nespresso capsules as a “luxury item”.
  • Gaillard wanted consumers to feel that Nespresso products are an integral part of a privileged and luxurious lifestyle. So, he created Club Nespresso to give the brand a stamp of exclusivity, although you only had to buy a machine or tablet to become a member.
  • On the other hand, Nespresso also bet on television, hiring American actor George Clooney for a commercial in 2006 that would be the face of the brand. Nespresso said that Clooney embodies everything it wants consumers to know about the brand, namely charm, a sense of humor and elegance.
  • In recent years, coffee brands like Starbucks have been concerned with brand identity positioning and consumer instant recognition, so their marketing has been face-to-face to better connect with people. With that in mind, they have also outfitted their coffee shops with a range of designs that represent the brand’s promises.

What is the difference between coffee culture in Europe and in the United States?

In the United States, coffee consumption is used for political conversation, conflict mediation, and work productivity, among other things. Unlike in other countries of the old continent, such as Italy, where coffee is drunk to converse with the barista or the employee on duty, or in Sweden, where a certain time of day is set aside for conscious coffee consumption, or in Germany, where coffee is drunk, to be alert at a certain time of the day.

In that sense, you could say that coffee culture in the US is more about speed than relaxation, as people want to stay awake to be really efficient at their work.

However, there are many critics of this overconsumption in the US workforce, who believe that drinking coffee for productivity reasons alone can have serious long-term consequences.

However, companies are increasingly setting up the necessary infrastructure in the break rooms so that employees can easily access instant coffee.

Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the United States

The largest coffee chain in the United States is undoubtedly Starbucks, followed by Dunkin Donuts, Caribou, Tim Horton’s and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

There are more than 12,000 Starbucks stores across the United States.

Starbucks opened its first store in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1987 that Howard Schultz bought the company for $3.8 million.

Starbucks is characterized by high prices compared to other brands, but at the same time it has a wide range of flavors, which is why, among other things, you can find high-quality exotic beans such as Bio Shade Grown Mexico, Colombia Nariño Supremo, Brazil Ipanema Bourbon Mellow , Lake Tower 2003 – Italian Roast , Panama La Florentine, Bellavista , Caffé Verona, New Guinea Peaberry, Arabian Mocha Java, Guatemala Old Elegant, Aged Sumatra, Sumatra Lintong.

Many Starbucks customers, particularly students, consultants, and intellectuals, have been known to bring their laptops into the store to enjoy a coffee while they do their homework. At Starbucks they will find a pleasant place to unleash their creativity or simply to escape from the office routine and chaos.

In addition to coffee, Starbucks also offers ice cream, chocolate, live music, and discounts on various exhibitions.

What is the future of coffee marketing in the United States?

It looks like in the years to come, coffee brands will use the following characteristics to educate consumers and entice them to buy the product:

Modern American consumers, especially the young, are more aware than ever that they need to take care of the planet and treat workers fairly, which is why they will look to support companies that share this vision.

Even Nespresso has changed its campaign that associates coffee with a privileged and luxurious lifestyle. Today, for example, various Nespresso advertisements use images of farmers in coffee-producing countries to highlight the most vulnerable players in the supply chain.