You enter the office, anticipating another busy day at work. You bid your coworkers a ‘good morning’ as you head to your desk to drop off your things. You sign in and begin to sort through your email, yawning periodically as you do. It’s already become clear that you’re going to need some fuel if you’re going to make it through the rest of the day. So you grab a k-cup and head to the break room to get your morning coffee.
A few of your coworkers are gathered around the machine in the breakroom. Some have their morning fuel already poured while others are waiting in line. They chat excitedly, catching up with one another they take the first couple of sips. You already feel more alert once yours is poured, the smoky and bitter aroma making your mouth water. You take that first sip and already you feel ready to tackle the day head-on as you pull your sweater sleeves over your shoulders and feel the warm cup in your hands.
Our ‘coffee breaks’ are a staple of the American workday, but did you know they began through a series of advertising campaigns?
Before Coffee Breaks
By the 1950s, the sales of coffee were going down. In order to help increase sales, major coffee companies along with coffee manufacturers in South America came together to form the Pan-American Coffee Bureau. They collectively invested two million dollars and recruited sociologist John B. Watson to assist them in their quest to increase coffee sales.
Upon research and observation, Watson noted that, during World War II, many factory workers would take a couple of minutes from their long shifts to take a break and grab a quick cup of coffee to wake themselves up. This gave the Pan-American Coffee Bureau the idea to run advertisements surrounding the idea of a ‘coffee break’.
The advertisements featured people standing or sitting around with one another, sipping cups of coffee happily. There were many slogans featured in these ads, including ‘Give yourself a Coffee-Break– and Get What Coffee Gives You!’ and ‘Good things happen over coffee’. The advertisements also touted the stimulating effects of coffee and how that can improve your work, in statements such as, ‘Work Better… Coffee’s gentle stimulation helps you do a better job.’ and ‘Coffee perks you up!’
Before long, ‘coffee-breaks’ became a commonplace occurrence in the work environment. Although the advertisements really changed the perspective and made them a staple of the workplace, they were really solidified roughly a decade later in 1964. According to Business Insider, the United Auto Workers Union, which contained The Big Three (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors), brought national attention and legality to the idea of the ‘coffee-break’ when they publicly threatened to go on strike unless coffee-breaks were negotiated into their contracts.
After that, a coffee break became an American work commonplace. Other countries even have their own versions of the ‘coffee-break’. The Germans have kaffeeklatsch, which means gathering and discussing the day’s events over a cup of coffee. Sweden has a tradition known as fika, which involves two coffee breaks- one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And then in countries like England and India, they inhibit the same practice as us, just substituting coffee for tea.
Whatever the specifics, our ‘coffee breaks’ have become a treasured time for hardworking Americans across the country. So when we hug that warm cup between our hands and breath in the fresh and invigorating scent of coffee grounds in the morning, we have an ad campaign to thank.