Happy 75th birthday, Nescafe instant coffee

File this under “fascinating things I never stopped to think about”: Who came up with the idea for instant coffee?

Nestle didn’t invent instant coffee — British and American inventors had that covered starting in the 18th century — but Nestle apparently made it better. They’re celebrating the 75th birthday of their instant coffee product, Nescafe, this month, and you can read its history in an article in The Guardian Nigeria:

Following the Wall Street Crash and the collapse of coffee prices, the bank had a lot of coffee sitting unsold in warehouses in Brazil.

Nestlé was asked whether these stocks could be turned into a ‘soluble coffee cube’ to be sold to consumers.

Nestle hired a chemist to figure out how to make an instant coffee powder that would maintain the coffee aroma — and it was first sold on April Fool’s Day 1938 in Switzerland. (Read the whole story here.)

Not long after that, instant coffee became a staple for soldiers in World War II, and the U.S. military bought one million pounds of Nescafe in a year.

Nescafe image by Mark Hillary, Flickr Creative Commons.


Video of the week: The three waves of American coffee

Watch the United States ride its love of caffeine through the post-war instant coffee craze all the way up to today’s artisan coffee connoisseurs. It’s a fun, informative clip:

For your consideration:

How have wars (notably World War II) influenced the way Americans consume their food and drink, including coffee?

In the video, Merry “Corky” White outlines three waves of American coffee consumption — and the most recent is the super-fine-tuned artisan coffee movement. What’s next?

(Video from Boston University. Hat tip: Smithsonian Magazine)

A visual history of coffee in the U.S.

How did Americans go from protesting a monopoly on tea importation in Boston in 1773 to drinking the most coffee in the world in 2013? What did the U.S. Civil War or World War I have to do with coffee? Who invented the coffee percolator?

Find answers to these questions and more in this great infographic from Lumin Consulting (click to enlarge):


(Hat tip: Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic, who featured this image in a blog post.)