Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Father of Our Coffee

Even the doughboys in the First World War really loved G-for-George Washington's Coffee, as you can see in this advertisement from 1918.

You'd be excused for thinking that the coffee was named in honor of America's first president. Not only is he the one George Washington people generally know about, there's the whole cherry tree legend and cherry pie thing associated with him, too. Well, that kind of goes with coffee, right?

But there was another George Washington (1871-1946) who was born in Belgium and came to the US in the late 1890s. His name really was George Washington - his father was English, and his mother was Belgian. Some sources say he was related to or descended from the George Washington but that doesn't seem to have been proven.

He invented a kind of instant coffee when he lived in Central America in the period just before World War I. It wasn't the very first instant coffee, though. That would be Strang's Coffee, invented by New Zealander David Strang in 1890. And American chemist Satori Kato popularized his instant coffee at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. But George Washington's was one of the first really widely sold kinds of powdered coffee, building on Strang's and Kato's earlier versions.

His company also sold G. Washington Seasoning and Broth in the 1930s (it is still made today, by the way); according to this site, this was sold at first under the charmingly minimalist name, "Broth." Later this was changed to the much more evocative (though confusing) name "Soup of Tomorrow." But mostly people remember George Washington as the Father of Instant Coffee.

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