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Coffee Tips

Who Invented the Coffee Break?

Coffee is among the most consumed beverages in the world. According to statistics, more than 150 million Americans are coffee drinkers. Different people drink coffee for varying reasons. For some, coffee helps them stay alert throughout the day, while for others, coffee helps boost their energy levels and get them ready for the day. Most people have made coffee part of their daily routine to the point that they can hardly function without it.

coffee break

Not to mention, drinking coffee is no longer a practice done only at home. It has extended to most offices and workplaces and thus the development of coffee breaks. Coffee breaks create a pause from job-related activities so that employees can recharge, refuel, or converse with their colleagues.

But where did the coffee break idea originate from, and who’s credited with inventing the coffee break? This article will answer the question “who invented the coffee break?” and discuss everything you need to know about this common workplace ritual. Read on!


What is a Coffee Break?

A coffee break refers to the brief 10 to 20-minute pause from the workday. The break generally takes place before a lunch break. It can also take place in the afternoon. During this break, employees are expected to leave their workstation or office and go to the cafeteria or designated break room to enjoy some coffee, tea, or other small snacks. Those who want to smoke can also do so in the designated areas. A coffee break is also referred to as a tea break, smoke break, or afternoon tea. The break serves as a brief rest or social gathering period and is usually a requirement for employees to boost their productivity.


Who Invented the Coffee Break?

The origin of the coffee break had something to do with the Maxwell House American coffee company and the behavioral psychologist J.B. Watson. This is how the story goes.

J.B. Watson was an American behavioral psychologist who believed that people could be trained to react in ways that are predictable through repetitive behaviors. This theory had the interest of most corporate advertising agencies who tried to find new ways to lure people to buy products. After serving as an academic psychologist, J.B. Watson started working in advertising agencies to get clients to buy their products. Eventually, Watson advertised for Maxwell House coffee, where he developed the coffee break idea in a commercial advert.

The idea behind the coffee break development required you to drink Maxwell House Coffee if you were to take a coffee break. Surprisingly, his idea worked. In the late 1980s, Maxwell House Coffee became the most purchased coffee brand in the United States.

With that said, other theories surround the development of the coffee break. Let’s take a look at them.

It’s believed that the coffee break began in Stoughton Wisconsin in the late 1800s. This is when Norwegian immigrants came to work in a wagon factory. Men were responsible for building the wagons while their wives would tend to their children at home. However, tobacco warehouse owners needed help harvesting tobacco and as a result, they asked local Norwegian wives to help them. The women agreed on a condition that they were allowed to take mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks to tend to household duties and their children. During the break, the wives would enjoy a quick cup of joe. Their conditions were met and that’s how the coffee break developed.

Another theory ties coffee break development to a company known as Barcolo that’s based in Buffalo, New York. In the early 1900s, the metal products manufacturer started offering employees coffee breaks and free coffee too. The company hoped that the caffeine jolt would boost the employees’ productivity.

Coffee break is also believed to have developed during world war 11 when skilled weavers from a small tiemaker company were called to war. The owner of the company Phil Greinetz hired older men to replace the skilled young men called to war. However, the older men were not very good at the work. Next, Phil Greinetz hired middle-aged women. The women were much more skilled and made ties to his standards. However, the women lacked the stamina to work a full shift since they became tired quickly. When called to a meeting, the women pleaded that they are given two breaks during the day for them to rest and sip a cup of coffee or tea. Phil Greinetz listened to them and tried 10-minute breaks with free coffee in the morning and afternoon. As a result, the productivity of the women increased as well as the company’s profits.

The term coffee break was popularized in 1952 through an ad campaign by Pan-American Coffee Bureau. The slogan encouraged people to give themselves coffee breaks. As a result, coffee breaks are part of the workplace routine.

No matter the origin of the coffee break, it is a great opportunity to relax and converse with your colleagues as well as sip some coffee to increase your productivity.