december 12, 2018 - Starbucks

A brief history of Starbucks in New York

Ever since the first barrels of coffee arrived from Dutch sailing ships in New Amsterdam, #newyork City has been at the epicenter of coffee culture and commerce:  New York is America’s original coffee town.

When coffee first arrived in Manhattan in the mid-1600s, it was a rare luxury enjoyed by just a privileged few. But as the colonies chafed against British rule, the tide began to turn from tea to coffee (Boston Tea Party, anyone?).
Later this week, #starbucks unveils a new premium coffee experience, an homage to the city’s legacy, in its #starbucks Reserve™ Roastery, located in the historic meatpacking district. It is a moment to consider how #newyork has shaped #starbucks, and how the coffee brand became a part of the city’s coffee scene.

Coffee as an act of patriotism

“As the colonies began clamoring for independence from England, drinking coffee became a patriotic act,” said Erin Meister, in her 2017 book, #newyork City Coffee: A Caffeinated History. “After the Revolutionary War, there was no real turning back, and coffee became a more significant part of life in #newyork.”

By the early 1800s, the city was on its way to becoming the new nation’s coffee capital. The southern tip of Manhattan became known as the Coffee District. Its cobblestone streets were lined with brokers’ offices, who would bid on samples of green, unroasted coffee fetched by errand boys from ships docked nearby. By the late 1800s, the buying and selling of coffee became more formalized with the creation of the Coffee Exchange on Pearl Street in 1882.

It was during the late 1800s that the aroma of coffee roasting reached the Coffee District as well. Coffee brokers began to roast small batches to taste roasted coffee before buying. And as the first commercial roasters were developed, brokers branched out into roasting.

“Before downtown rents spiked, lower Manhattan was constantly enveloped in the aroma of roasting coffee,” according to Meister’s book. “Surely if the city itself wasn’t so loud, passersby would have been able to hear the simultaneous popping of tons of beans hitting second crack.”
The city’s immigrants also influenced the way the beverage was enjoyed by its inhabitants. There were British clubhouses with curtained booths, Viennese-style coffee shops with marble counters and German bakeries that paired coffee with a sweet.
"New York did coffee in such a big way," Meister said in an interview. "The other big coffee towns served as a place for political conversation. In #newyork, it was more about community. It was influenced by different coffee cultures."

Fueling the city that never sleeps

By the 20th century, coffee kept the city buzzing. Coffee was everywhere. Brewed coffee was a staple of diners, bodegas and automats. There was also high-end coffee if you knew where to look. One of America’s first espresso machines served espresso in Greenwich Village starting in 1927.
Mid-century, coffee houses and foam cups from street carts and bodegas fueled #newyork, with the iconic blue Greek-key (Anthora) paper takeout coffee cups carried throughout the city.

Ric Rhinehart, Chief Executive Officer of the Specialty Coffee Association, describes the coffee scene in #newyork during this time.
“Folks in Manhattan thought of coffee in one of two ways – espresso at a highly esteemed venue or a cup on the street corner,” Rhinehart said. “In the popular culture, there wasn’t room for this idea of connoisseurship for coffee.”


Further information in the press release to download