Coffee History / 1950-Present


1950 - Significant coffee production begins in New Guinea.

1950 - Ernest Valente develops a new type of espresso machine that utilizes an electric motor to drive a rotating pump in order to create the high pressure for espresso extraction. This new espresso machine provides a more reliable continuous water delivery, and is first marketed under the brand of Faema. (See 1961.)

1956 – In The Constance Spry Cookery Book, Constance Spry writes, “During the war one accepted indifferent after-dinner coffee as a necessity, but when, after the war, one sought to find the coffee remembered of days gone by, one found disappointment.”

The book goes on to state that, “I was looking for the rich after-dinner coffee that literally curdled cream if anyone was foolish enough to spoil it with cream.”

1956 - This is the beginning of the modern era of coffee houses in areas such as North Beach in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York where Jazz beats play and intellectuals, poets, and the avant-garde exchange revolutionary ideas of politics and philosophy over coffee and espresso.

This gives rise to the counter-culture of the Beatniks, Bohemians, and other free thinkers and their rebellion against traditions, setting the stage for the political, cultural, and sexual revolutions of the 1960s.

1959 – In the Kona Coffee growing region of Hawaii there are twelve coffee mills as the region’s output continues to grow. In the previous decades the Kona coffee market had been almost completely controlled by Captain Cook Coffee and American Factors, but the establishment of new mills and coffee cooperatives among farmers work toward higher profits for the farmers.


1960 – The fictional advertising character Juan Valdez is introduced by the Columbian Coffee Federation, an association representing more than one half million Columbian coffee farmers. Juan Valdez is portrayed as a humble coffee farmer picking the coffee beans one at a time while accompanied by his loaded pack mule.

1961 - The pump-based espresso machine developed by Ernest Valente (see 1950) is marketed by M. Faema. Rather than using a manually-operated piston to force the hot water through the coffee grounds, an electric pump is used. The water supply passes through a tube that goes through the boiler before being forced through the ground coffee. This basic pump-driven espresso machine design has persisted to the present day.

1962 - President John F. Kennedy states, “We are attempting to get an agreement on coffee because if we don’t get an agreement on coffee we’re going to find an increasingly dangerous situation in the coffee producing countries, and one which would threaten the security of the entire hemisphere.”

1962 - An International Coffee Agreement is negotiated through the United Nations and results in worldwide coffee export quotas.

1962 - In the New York Post, British playwright Christopher Fry writes that, “Coffee in New England is just toasted milk.”

1962 – A vacuum packages method is patented by the Melitta Bentz company.

1962 - In Japan the Doutor Coffee Chain is founded.

1963 – In his Message to the Grass Roots Speech, Malcolm X states, “It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.”

1963 – An automatic drip coffee maker is introduced by the Bunn corporation for use in restaurants. The machine heats the water, brews the coffee and keeps it warm on a heated plate.

1963 - Procter & Gamble purchase Folgers Coffee Company and begins distributing the brand nationally, quickly becoming the top coffee brand in America. In 1984 they adopt the popular advertising slogan, “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!”

1966 – In The Haphazard Gourmet, Richard Gehman writes, “It was one of those mornings when a man could face the day only after warming himself with a mug of thick coffee beaded with steam, a good thick crust of bread, and a bowl of bean soup.”

1966 - A Dutch-American man named Alfred Peet opens Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, California. Alfred’s father was the operator of a small coffee roastery in Holland, and Alfred brought his father’s knowledge of coffee roasting to Berkeley. Peet’s provides very strong, freshly-roasted coffee beans.

Alfred’s Holland father is considered the grandfather of the specialty coffee industry because his son’s influence in teaching the founder’s of Starbucks (see 1971) would begin the rise of its popularity.

1969 – Abigail Folger, the heiress to the Folger coffee fortune, is killed by the Manson family at the home of film maker Roman Polanski when Folger is at the home visiting Sharon Tate. One week later the Woodstock festival takes place.

1969 – In the Kona Coffee growing region on the Big Island of Hawaii the altered school schedule – the “Kona Coffee Vacation” – that had children take their break during the coffee harvest season (so they could work) was changed back to the regular summer break used by the rest of Hawaii’s students. (See 1932.)

1969 – Edward Bransten, who is an influential figure in the San Francisco Jewish community and a third generation San Franciscan who worked in the coffee business for 56 years as president of MJB Co founded by his family (and sold to Nestle in 1985), states: “I believe that the American coffee industry is doing itself irreparable harm by mass marketing mediocre coffee at a low price. I think what is happening today in the coffee business is just a foreshadowing of the eventual indifference of the total American pubic to the world of coffee drinking.”

1969, July 20 – Apollo 11’s LEM Eagle broadcasts to the Johnson Space Center, “If you’ll excuse me a minute, I’m going to have a cup of coffee.”


1971 – Alfred Peet teaches three friends his coffee roasting techniques at his Peet’s store in Berkeley. The three friends – Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker – use the knowledge and assistance from Peet to open the first Starbucks store in Pike Place Market in Seattle, selling only freshly-roasted coffee beans and not brewed coffee drinks.

Within the first year they bought their own coffee roaster. This began the rise in popularity of freshly-roasted and brewed whole bean coffee.

1972 – The Mr. Coffee automatic drip coffee maker is introduced by Ohio entrepreneur Vincent Marotta. This is the first automatic drip coffee maker designed for home use.

The machine percolates water through coffee grounds at about two hundred degrees Fahrenheit rather than roiling the water and grounds as occurs in a traditional percolator.

Baseball star Joe DiMaggio pitches the new coffee maker on television. By the end of the decade the machines would be selling at a rate of about 40,000 per day.

1973 – Coleman Dowell, in Mrs. October Was Here, states that “It is extraordinary how the house and the simplest possession of someone who has been left become so quickly sordid. Even the stain on the coffee cup seems not coffee but the physical manifestation of one’s inner stain, the fatal blot that from the beginning had marked one for ultimate aloneness.”

1974 – In France for the Gourmet Traveller, Pamela Vandyke Price writes, “Sugar is always served with coffee [in France], usually in large lumps, and it is not bad manners – though certainly informal and not to be done at a luncheon or dinner party – to dip the corner of a lump of sugar into the coffee and then eat it. To do so is to ‘faire le canard.’”

1975 – In Canada the Second Cup Coffee Chain is founded.


1980 - The market for Hawaii Kona Coffee increases significantly in part due to the growth of the premium coffee industry worldwide.

1982 – Starbucks begins supplying coffee to espresso bars and fine restaurants.

1983 – The Diedrich Coffee Chain is established in the United States.

1984 – Starbucks begins serving espresso-based specialty coffee drinks including its first Caffe Latte.

1985 – Starbucks establishes Il Giornale coffee shops serving espresso drinks and brewed coffee using Starbucks coffee beans.

1985 - William Burroughs, in his book The Adding Machine, Remembering Jack Kerouac, writes, “Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levis to both sexes. Woodstock rises from his pages.”

1987 - Il Giornale purchases Starbucks assets and is renamed Starbucks Corporation. Coffee shops open in Canada and Chicago, and there are seventeen stores in all.

1989 – The nations involved in the International Coffee Agreement (see 1962) fail to reach a new agreement and coffee prices drop rapidly.


1991 – Starbucks begins offering stock option programs to its workers, including part-time employees, becoming the first privately owned United States company to do so. Starbucks coffee shops total 116, and include its first licensed airport store at the Seattle Airport.

1992 - Starbucks offers an initial public offering (IPO) of stock on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol SBUX. The company has 165 coffee shops.

1992 – Starbucks opens a coffee roasting plant in Washington, and has a 272 coffee shops operating. Another roasting facility would open in Pennsylvania in 1995.

1994 – Haiti president Jean-Bertrand, in a New York Times articles, states that “We shall prepare the coffee of reconciliation through the filter of justice. Through reconciliation, streams of tears will come to our eyes.”

1995 – Vietnam begins large scale production of Robusta coffee  after trade relations with the United States are normalized.

1995 – With more than 400 billion cups consumed annually, coffee is the most popular drink on the planet.

1995 – In Memoir of an Antproof Case, Mark Helprin writes, “The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.”

1996 - The director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Russell Greenberg, states that, “Coffee is turning out to be quite a cosmic issue – and the way it’s grown, marketed, and consumed has implications for the environmental health of the world.”

1996 – Starbucks opens stores in Japan and Singapore, which are its first coffee shops outside of North America. Starbucks now has 1,015 stores.

1997 – Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz states, “We would take something old and tired and common – coffee – and weave a sense of romance and community around it. We would rediscover the mystique and charm that had swirled around coffee through the centuries.”

1999 - United States coffee consumers spend more than $9 billion in the retail coffee market and another $8 billion on coffee as part of the food service market.

About 161 million people, equal to more than half of the United States population, drinks coffee at least once daily, and just under thirty percent of these people drink gourmet or specialty coffee (e.g., fresh-roasted and ground whole bean coffee). American coffee consumers spent about $165 each on coffee during the year, on average.


2000 – About fifty-four percent of U.S. adults drink coffee daily, and about eighteen percent of them drink gourmet coffee, according to statistics compiled by the National Coffee Association. About one-fourth of U.S. adults drink coffee occasionally.

2000 – Starbucks begins offering organic and shade-grown coffee as well as Fair Trade Certified coffee.[check link] New stores continue to open worldwide including Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, bringing the total number of Starbucks coffee shops to 3,501.[check links]

2002 - With new stores opening in Mexico, Greece, Germany, Indonesia,[check link] and Spain, Starbucks coffee shops total 5,8886.

2002 – About 9,500 coffee shops operate in the U.S. This will increase to 25,000 by 2008.

2003 – Starbucks buys Seattle Coffee Company including Seattle’s Best Coffee and also opens a new roasting facilities in Nevada and the Netherlands. With new coffee shops opening in Peru, Chile, and Turkey, the total number of Starbucks coffee shops reaches 7,225.

2007 – Starbucks eliminates artificial trans fat in its products and begins using two percent milk as the standard milk in all espresso drinks in the United States. With new stores opening in Russia and Romania, the total number of Starbucks coffee shops reaches 15,011.

2008 – Starbucks announces a new focus on selling digital music, books, and other entertainment, and grants Concord Music Group the management of its Hear Music Record Label.

The total number of Starbucks is 16,680 with new stores opening in Portugal, Argentina, the Czech Republic, and Portugal.

2008 – In the United States there are about 13,000 chain coffee shops and 12,000 independent coffee shops.

2008 – Adult coffee consumption is up seventeen percent from 2002.

2009 – Traditional coffee sales at grocery stores increase 3% while specialty coffee sales increase 12% with specialty coffee generating $1.4 billion.

2009 – Two-thirds of adults consume coffee at least once each week. Though the downturn in the economy leads to the closure of many coffee shops, overall coffee consumption does not decrease.

2010 - More than 700 commercial and estate Kona Coffee Farms on the Big Island of Hawaii, most only about three to five acres in size. Among the coffee farmers of Kona are many fifth-generation descendants of the pioneering Kona coffee farmers while many farms are also owned by Americans who came from the United States mainland beginning in the 1960s.

Much of the Kona crop is bought by big companies who blend the coffee beans with non-Kona coffees, however the number of private estate Kona coffee labels marketing 100% Kona coffee and Organic Kona coffee also continues to grow as a respected niche market including many small Kona coffee roasting operations. Virtually all Kona coffee is still harvested by hand (e.g., hand-picked).

The Present Day 2010/2011 - World coffee production is about 115 million bags per year. Americans are the largest consumers, with the U.S. drinking about 400 million cups of coffee each day (146 billion per year). About 40 percent of all coffee sold in the United States is specialty coffee, and about twenty-seven percent of all coffee beans grown in the world are imported into the United States.

The country with the highest consumption per capita is Finland where the average person consumes about 12 kilograms annually, which is three times the amount of the average U.S. coffee consumer. Coffee is the second most traded commodity behind oil.

Explore the World of Gourmet Coffee

To read all about the finest coffees in the world see Gourmet Coffees. For tips on brewing the perfect cup of coffee see the Espresso Coffee Guide’s section on Coffee Brewing.

For a complete list of coffee terminology with detailed definitions see the Espresso Coffee Guide’s Coffee and Espresso Glossary.

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