It is said, by the famous “they”, that coffee is the world’s number two trading commodity, just behind oil. It might be true; coffee rivals older beverages like tea or wine for most-favorite drink status. Coffee arrived on the scene in the 800s in the middle east, though not in a form we would recognize until much later. From Kings to civil war soldiers, coffee has found a place in most cups. Today’s coffee is often a triple grande non-fat half-caff no-foam soy latte or some such variation, but straight up java and the many companies that sold it, were fixtures in our homes and restaurants.
As the song goes, “I like java, sweet and hot. Whoops, Mr. Moto, I’m a coffee pot.” My grandpa liked to drink Taster’s Choice, with cream. You might remember this instant coffee from the popular serialized commercials from the 1990s featuring the British couple. Yuban also made a showing in our house, as did Folger’s with the “flavor crystals”. I have no idea what those crystals were really made of, but I remember them sparkling in the glass jar.
Maxwell House, of “good to the last drop” fame, started as a coffee for the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, in the early 1890s. Time moved on and the famous slogan began appearing in advertising in 1917. The coffee and the slogan continue to be popular with the percolator set.
Sanka, first marketed in the US in the 1920s, is a type of decaffinated coffee. The company sponsored the first run of the I Love Lucy show and marketed its beverage as a means to bring down blood pressure and decrease nervousness and irritability. I suppose that would be an accurate claim compared with someone pounding back cup after cup of fully caffeinated coffee.
As popular as these brands are, there are many others, some of which are still operating. Hills Brother, Eight O’Clock Coffee, MJB, Red Circle Coffee, State House Coffee and Chock Full O’ Nuts.
Coffee’s influence is everywhere – where would Niles and Frasier have gone without it or Phoebe and her Smelly Cat song? Joe DiMaggio is remembered as Mr. Coffee as well as a famous ball player. The Andrew Sisters sang for a “Proper Cup of Coffee” and Ella Fitzgerald extoled “Black Coffee”. Coffee tins are big in the collectibles market and many a garage has one or two full of nails or screws.
As popular as espresso beverages might be, there are folks that still prefer drip coffee (or french press or percolator, or even instant) to the fancy stuff. I like lattes myself, but more often than not I’d rather have a cup of strong black coffee in a mug, maybe with a slice of pie or starting my day first thing in the morning.