NPR has a great story on the history of instant coffee, which was apparently a welcome novelty by WWI troops marching into battle.
The people credited with inventing it are a Japanese-American chemist who invented soluble coffee powder and a Belgian-American named George Washington who mass produced it.
After the war, the product was marketed to households as coffee you can have whenever you want. We always had a jar of Folger’s growing up, and it was the only kind of coffee in the house for my entire childhood. Seattle and Starbucks really introduced me to coffee culture in the 90s, and my obsession has grown from there.
In Pakistan, where my parents immigrated from, Nescafe instant coffee is laboriously whipped with a small amount of water before it’s added to hot milk to make a homemade version of a latte. It would be neat to hear about how other cultures have turned something as simple as instant coffee into something a little more akin to the magic of a freshly brewed cup of jo.
More from the article:
Soluble coffee was notably used on the front lines. Soldiers stirred it into hot water, gulped from tin mugs, and called it “a cup of George,” after the company’s founder — whose name was apparently familiar to at least some soldiers. In a letter from the front that Pendergrast quotes, a soldier wrote: “There is one gentlemen I am going to look up first after I get through helping whip the Kaiser, and that is George Washington, of Brooklyn, the soldiers’ friend.”