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Saturday, 28 March 2009

The stuff that fueled the West


The image of a group of cowboys huddled around a campfire sipping freshly brewed coffee is a familiar one indeed. But in the mid 1800's making a brew was not an easy task - pre ground coffee was almost impossible to get hold off and the Westbound travellers would carry sacks of coffee beans with them.

These green beans weren't ready to use until roasted in a frying pan and then run through an hand held coffee grinder. Then a handful of grounds would be tossed into a pan of water and brought to a boil. As the water cooled, the grounds sank to the bottom.

This time consuming method of making the rocket fuel presented business opportunities for shrewd businessmen such as James Folger in California and John Arbuckle in Texas.

Both men would set up businesses making easily prepared coffee and soon the names of both Folgers and Arbuckle were well known across the West.

Today the five story brick building that housed the Folger empire still exists in San Francisco. It is a listed building and will be preserved for future generations.

John Arbuckle was a millionaire by the early 1890's and had branched out into the sugar business and following his death in 1912 the Arbuckle brand seemed to fade away. But the product can still be purchased today by mail order.

Folgers remains America's favourite way of waking up.

11 comments:

Randy Johnson said...

Nice history lesson. Folger's is my brand of choice.

G said...

I like Folger's.

Too bad it's seriously expensive to buy.

Chris said...

I don't know if I've ever had Folgers, but I really enjoyed this post!

I've been preferring Dunkin Donuts' coffee lately.

Gary, you should check out my new post. It's a transcription of Louis L'Amour talking about a bunch of different things. Who knows, might give you an idea for a story! Let me know what you think.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm to lazy to have ever made coffee in the old days.

ARCHAVIST said...

Charles - it would have tasted sweet after wading through all that water.

Scott Parker said...

Thanks for the reminder about the West and coffee. For a great history of coffee, read Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast. http://www.amazon.com/Uncommon-Grounds-History-Coffee-Transformed/dp/0465054676/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238262195&sr=8-1

I'm a coffee snob. I haven't done Folgers in over a decade. I now buy my coffee from an independent roaster here in Houston. Sumatra and Guatemalan are my favorites but a new Puerto Rican bean is what I'm currently enjoying.

James Reasoner said...

I've had Arbuckle's coffee. It's not bad, but I don't recall it being anything special, either. Like Chris, I enjoy the Dunkin Donuts coffee, and the Wal-Mart Great Value brand is surprisingly good, too.

I don't think my parents ever drank anything except Folger's.

ARCHAVIST said...

weren't no dunkin donuts on the frontier, guys.

AnthonyB said...

What a great piece, thoroughly enoyed it. Is the coffee available in the UK? I will try and seek it out. Looking forward to your next article on "the beans that won the west".......and i don't mean coffee, i mean as per Blazing Saddles!! Keep up the good work!

Barbara Martin said...

This brings back memories of a tin pot with coffee grounds on a campfire with springfed water. Wakes you up quick.

Jeff Smith said...

I attend old west functions and get chummy with the chuck wagon people. They always prepare coffee the old way and nothing beats sitting around a camp fire drinking cowboy coffee.