29 Sep Why Do We Drink Coffee at Work?
Coffee is everywhere in modern society, but it wasn’t always this way. The United States was a country of tea drinkers until the decades following World War II. While the first batches of coffee were available stateside in the late 1700s, the drink was taken medicinally and remained an elite product for about 100 years.
Just before the turn of the 20th century, coffee became available to a larger group of consumers. But although coffee was not yet a widely consumed product, the powers-that-be in the coffee world eventually started to use lower quality beans in order to cut costs. That gave an opening to entrepreneurs from coffee-growing regions to create a tastier alternative to what people had become accustomed to.
It’s thanks to pressure from the Pan American Coffee Bureau, which promoted richer Central American beans instead of the increasingly inferior product on the market, that workers enjoy the “coffee break” widely known today. The Bureau’s 1950s-era advertising campaign with the tagline “give yourself a coffee break,” showed images of people sipping the beverage in the workplace.
Although the coffee break became a staple of many collective agreements after World War II, many companies say they were the first to offer workers a break to sip a cup of joe during the day, including Barcalounger. The company, then called Barcolo, supposedly instituted the coffee break in 1902. Workers on the manufacturing lines — and their employers — benefited from the energy boost from caffeine. The first coffee vending machines, Kwik Kafes, went on the market in 1946, just in time to help employees get a quick boost and employers more out of their laborers — for good or bad.
If you drink coffee at work, it’s probably no longer because of this 1950s print advertisement. As the drink became more pervasive in American society, it simply became a staple of U.S. working life. There are good reasons why too — you probably know coffee’s caffeine content helps with alertness, but coffee’s reputation for helping with neck, shoulder and forearm pain also promotes its use as a beverage. It also encourages socialization during that coffee break.
On International Coffee Day, take a breather with a cup of your favorite brew and remember the long history of your favorite drink. Your working day probably wouldn’t be the same without it!