Cowboy Cravings and Coffee Commitmentby John Scott on Jun. 01, 2013, under Uncategorized
I drink coffee. Drinking it right now, in fact. You may be sipping, guzzling, swigging, or even knocking back some while reading this. It’s no secret that our forefathers drank it, too. By the time Arizona become a territory, it was a staple in American diets.
If you peruse receipts from cattle ranches, settlers, and trailblazers, you will find coffee right near the sugar and flour. Restaurants listed it on their menus. Mercantiles usually carried at least one variety. The Journal of the Pioneer Mining District which details the life of miners along the Hassayampa river in the 1860’s, mentions coffee as an essential item on their supply list. Nope, it wasn’t frappuccino, mochaccino, or even Al Pacino. It was just coffee.
In the early years, green coffee beans were roasted in a skillet, then ground and boiled up strong enough to float a bullet. It was a long process. Easy to ruin, too. A couple of burned beans and the whole batch was bad. Also, every cup of steaming caffeine came complete with grounds on the bottom. Mmmm, bonus.
In 1864, the Arbuckle brothers from New York came up with a method of keeping a roast fresh by using an egg and sugar glaze. It became popular and was shipped nationwide for consumption. Today the legend lives on and Arbuckles’ is not only still available, it’s made right here in Tucson. http://www.arbucklecoffee.com
I am not a coffee connoisseur. I am a huge fan of Arbuckles’, but also visit a popular chain that shall remain nameless. This mermaid logo java is a bit strong for my taste, but it does the job, and the folks who run the place laugh at my jokes and have service down to a science. In Arizona Territory, the Barista was a grumbling old cook, pouring coffee out of an enormous enamelware pot, and sneering if you ask for sugar. Maybe that was Old West customer service. Hard to say, because there wasn’t a Yelp back then.
Coffee was used as trade items for Indians, too. I found an interesting reference here:
C. N. Cotton founded a wholesale establishment called C. N. Cotton Company in Gallup, New Mexico in 1894. Cotton used his great knowledge of Indian preferences, to acquire the exclusive regional distributorship of two important items needed for trade with the Indians: Arbuckle’s Coffee and Pendelton Blankets. To the Navaho Indians, these were the only acceptable brands of coffee and blankets. Therefore most of the outlying Indian trading posts ordered all the Arbuckle’s Coffee and Pendelton blankets from Cotton. As an example of how the pricing structures worked, Cotton paid the Arbuckle’s distributor $7 for a case of coffee, and would sell the case to an outlying Indian trading post for $8 per case, and the smaller trading post would sell the coffee to the Navahos for $10 per case.
I believe a case of coffee held several one pound bags. Today that would cost about $200. Recently I bought a reproduction case from Arbuckles’ to use as…well… a coffee table. Currently, there is no coffee in it. There is coffee on it, seeing as I just spilled a bit.
So the next time you are waiting in line for a beverage that has chocolate shavings, or crunchy caramel ribbons on top of whipped cream with a shot of blended espresso underneath, I want you to ponder the past. Think of the prospectors, ranchers, soldiers, and farmers of Arizona’s territory, eagerly waiting just like you to have their eye-opening cup of joe.
Hmmm. I appear to have finished mine. Better make another pot.