Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Would You Like a Hot Cup of George?

by Connie Cortright

These days coffee comes in all sizes, colors and flavors from Keurig machines to Espresso Cafes. We are used to getting a hot cup of "joe" any time of the day in two minutes flat.

But, how about a "cup of George"?  If you were a soldier in the trenches during World War I, you'd know what I mean. Back then the doughboys drank cups of George-named after George Washington Coffee-when they needed a hit of caffeine.

George Constant Louis Washington was the first person to mass produce instant coffee in America around 1910. Coffee had been boiled and consumed for centuries prior to that, but Mr. Washington discovered a way to hurry the process by making instant coffee powder. However, most people didn't appreciate his novel idea because of the disagreeable taste.

The soldiers in France drank it eagerly because the caffeine kept them awake and alert during the long days in the trenches, despite the bad taste. As documented by an American soldier in 1918: "I am very happy despite the rats, the rain, the mud, the drafts, the roar of the cannon and the scream of shells. It takes only a minute to light my little oil heater and make some George Washington Coffee... Every night I offer up a special petition to the health and well-being of [Mr. Washington]." At least they could have coffee without lugging around a coffee pot.

Photos from Wikicommons
After the soldiers returned from the war, instant coffee showed up on more kitchen cabinets in our country. Because of Prohibition in 1919 the sale of coffee soared and other companies introduced an instant coffee line such as Bantam Coffee.

In 1938 the Nestle's company invented freeze-dried coffee which tasted much closer to the real thing. It was sold under the brand name Nescafe. A short time after that Maxwell House started marketing their instant coffee also.

At the start of World War II the demand for instant coffee spiked again to supply the soldiers abroad. During one year the entire production from the US Nescafe plant - over one million cases- went solely to the military.

Today's form of coffee from the Keurig machine is amazingly fast and of a very good quality, but would be hard pressed to be used by soldiers in the field of duty. They probably have to revert to instant coffee again when soldiers need a bit of caffeine.

Information taken from  The History of Instant Coffee

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