How does a huge country with 50 states—only 2 of which can grow coffee—end up with coffee as its #1 most-consumed beverage?
Why did we catch on to coffee later than other countries?
And why do we love coffee so much now?
How it Started Here
Coffee has a long, storied history before it became popular in America.
Some sources say (or speculate) that coffee was difficult to get in the colonies before the American Revolution, which certainly makes sense. Tea, not coffee, remained the drink of choice of the colonists up until around the time of the Boston Tea Party.
That's when coffee became a symbol of American patriotism.
Well, Old King George had decided that "coffee culture" was a threat to his power, and had placed a ban on coffee. Apparently, he thought that the way coffee brought Americans together for socialization and discussion in coffeehouses wasn’t just bordering on seditious—it was seditious.
So when the American colonists decided to revolt against Britain, it's easy to see how coffee became a symbol of the fight for freedom.
After the Revolution, coffeehouses became popular gathering places for all sorts of Americans—from politicians, to artists, to businessmen and industrialists.
And as those coffeehouses proliferated, naturally so did the popularity of coffee.
Famous Americans Who Loved Coffee
Ben Franklin himself was one of the first Americans to become "well known" for frequenting coffeehouses (among other accomplishments).
He even started selling his own coffee beans eventually, and some say that he never traveled via boat without his own personal supply of coffee, out of fear that the boat's supply might run out.
Ben once wrote:
"Among the numerous luxuries of the table… coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions… is never followed by sadness, languor or debility."
I'm inclined to agree with him.
Cowboys of The Old West
Heck, even cowboys of the American Old West were known for loving coffee. They roasted green coffee beans over campfires, ground them up with a mortar and pestle, boiled them, and drank it.
Now that's devotion.
Or maybe "true grit" is more appropriate, considering the coffee they were drinking back then was probably pretty darned gritty. Still, that's why we still call coffee made with a pot over a campfire "cowboy coffee" today.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first—but not the last—American President known for his huge love of coffee, drinking a gallon every day.
Although Teddy's son once said that his father's daily coffee cup was, I quote: "more in the nature of a bathtub." You have to give it to Roosevelt's son, that's pretty funny, especially given the landscape of the standup comedy scene in 1901.
What would America be like if Teddy Roosevelt hadn't drank so much coffee? At a minimum, we'd probably have less National Parks today.
Which U.S. States Grow Coffee?
Only Two: Hawaii and (very recently) California.
Hawaii's Kona coffee is world-renowned, and California's climate between the Central Coast and San Diego now supports over 100 acres of new coffee plantations.
Florida has its eyes on producing coffee as well. What kind of coffee Florida would produce in its climate—and where—is still under assessment by agricultural scientists and coffee farmers. If they grow coffee in North Florida, the cooler, almost too cold temperatures in winter could produce coffee that's sweeter, and more acidic. If they grow it in South Florida, it'll probably be rude, but have great air conditioning.
As technology improves, will other states get in on the coffee-growing game? Time will tell. But in the meantime, you can bet that we Americans will continue to love and drink coffee, no matter where it comes from.
More Facts About Coffee in America
- According to the latest statistics, Americans drink about 517 million cups of coffee every. Single. Day. (Source)
- According to BestLife, the top 5 coffee drinking cities in the US are: #1 Portland, #2 San Francisco, #3 Seattle, #4 Los Angeles, and #5 New York City. No surprise with any of those, really—but #6 is the Death Valley-adjacent Las Vegas, of all places, and #7 is Miami. I've already made a South Florida joke, so I'll leave it there. (Source)
- According to the National Coffee Association, 62% of Americans drink coffee every single day. The average American coffee drinker drinks about 3 cups of coffee per day. (Source)
- The average American spends $1,097 on coffee every year—from single serve k-cups, to overpriced coffee shop lattes ordered via app, to coffee brewed fresh at home. (Source)
- American Millennials aren't killing the coffee industry—they spend the most money on coffee of any age group: about $2008 a year, on average. (Source)
- Americans have their own versions of European staples like the Breve and Cafe Americano.
Hopefully you learned something new about America's favorite beverage. And if not, at least you know that we love our coffee—a lot.
And while coffee was popular in other parts of the world before the love spread here, our affection for coffee began rather uniquely: with a bunch of rebels who were fed up with being told what they weren't allowed to do.
So next time you take a sip of your morning cup of joe, remember its rich history in America—and the fact that, without coffee, we might not be the country we are today.
And if someone tries to tell you that you drink too much coffee, just tell them:
"I'm not addicted to caffeine, I'm addicted to America."