My friend Jorge knocked on the door and interrupted my investigation of today’s topic. When he saw that I was researching instant coffee, my pal flashed me a knowing grin. Jorge has been an instant coffee user since childhood.
Although he loves the taste of fresh brewed, his go-to coffee is instant. Jorge is somewhat apologetic about his favorite brand of instant coffee. Jorge confessed that he prefers to drink Nescafe’ Classico. He was quick to add that he and his partner do not purchase any other products made by Nestle’, the coffee is the lone exception. He was referring to the worldwide boycott of Nestle’ products because of the missteps in the company’s business model.
The latest outrage is the statement by the company’s chairman that corporations should own every drop of water on the planet and people should only have some if they will pay a company for the privilege. The statement that water is not a basic human right, and should be privatized is only the latest on a laundry list of human rights quandries.
Jorge says his taste for Nescafe’ was cultivated at an early age. His busy mother served the drink every day to family and friends. It was a time saver in that she didn’t have to clean pots and throw out used grounds. Holiday feasts were the only times she prepared fresh ground coffee. The most popular brand in the Mexican grocery stores was Nescafe’.
Historically, the British first experimented with a type of dehydrated coffee in 1771. That first try failed to gain popularity, though. In the United States, the first experimental instant coffee came in “cake” form in 1853. It was field tested during the Civil War.
The first powdered variety was invented in 1890, by David Strang of New Zealand. Strang’s process involved blowing hot, dry air over liquid coffee until it condensed into solids. The resulting product was convenient, portable and probably tasted nasty. Despite the flavor, public reaction to the product was enthusiastic. A similar process was developed in Japan in 1901, by Sartori Kato who adapted his instant tea process to make instant coffee.
A product that was similar to the Strang and Kato instant coffees entered the American market in 1910 from George Constant Louis Washington. Public reaction to the first version of “George Washington Coffee” was reluctant acceptance due to its bitter flavor.
The two World Wars provided a major boost to instant coffee producers. The powder was included in the meal rations. In fact, the major share of production from the American companies was sold to the US military.
It was the Nestle’ company that made the beverage more palatable and convenient. In the late 1930s they co-dried coffee extract with an equal amount of sugar-sweetened milk. In the 1960s, they helped develop the freeze drying process that is today’s industry standard.
All that history made Jorge and me thirsty for a cup of joe. Jorge insisted I should let my french press rest and that I prepare some instant Folgers, instead. I filled two medium size mugs with half water-half milk, then microwaved them for a couple of minutes. Next I added two heaping teaspoons of the Folger’s “crystals” to each mug and stirred. (Neither of us use sugar in our coffee.) We enjoyed our perfect cups of instant coffee.
Jorge told me to remind my readers that the secret to a good cup of instant coffee, is to follow the label directions. Use one rounded teaspoon for every six-ounces of hot water and tweak according to taste. My friend enjoyed my instant coffee so much that he promised to wean himself away from the Nescafe’ ASAP.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this one-liner from Jay Leno: “Starbuck’s is going to start selling instant coffee. This is for people who want the quality of Sanka, but want to pay the high Starbuck’s price.”