Did Gourmet Coffee Start with Alfred Peet?

Most of us of a certain age grew up drinking mass produced ground coffee such as Maxwell House or Folgers. The concept of whole bean coffee roasted and ground just before making coffee did not exist. At least it didn’t until Alfred Peet came along. Did gourmet coffee start with Alfred Peet? Investor’s Business Daily writes that Alfred Peet brewed a better cup of coffee and folks flocked to his door.

Alfred Peet was convinced that Americans would pay up for a better-tasting cup of coffee. This was back in the 1950s and ’60s – way before today’s gourmet coffee shops.

He also saw hardly anyone willing to travel the globe in search of excellent coffee beans, teach the public how premium-quality coffee should taste and explain that with coffee beans, where they’re grown matters.

So the Dutch-born expert in coffee and tea made it his mission to serve an excellent product that was priced at a premium over the marketplace yet still was affordable enough to enjoy repeatedly.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea opened in Berkley, CA in 1961 and grew to seven locations by 1981.  Today the company has 283 outlets in the USA and sells bags of gourmet coffee in retail stores. Many coffee entrepreneurs credit Alfred Peet with inspiring them to sell gourmet coffee.

Sourcing Great Coffee

Something that did not happen before Alfred Peet came along was visiting coffee plantations in search of high quality coffee. And the concepts of organic coffee, shade grown coffee and fair trade coffee followed naturally as consumers became acquainted with Peet’s gourmet coffee.

The original motive behind fair trade coffee was to develop coffee trade relationships based on respect, transparency, and dialogue between producers and sellers. The point is to guarantee fair prices to small coffee growers who would otherwise have no access to fair pricing. At its heart fair trade coffee is an idea for social betterment more so than a way to make better coffee. There is a “Fairtrade” coffee brand for which coffee packers pay a fee a “Fairtrade” logo and brand name. Coffee carrying this name must come from an associated cooperative. In general cooperative only sell part of their harvest as fair trade coffee because of lack of demand.

It was Alfred Peet who first cut out the middle man and visited coffee farms, found the best product and paid a fair price to the coffee grower.

At a time when a cup of coffee was just a cup of coffee Alfred Peet introduced us to the concept that coffee could be special. We recently asked what’s the point of organic coffee? Alfred Peet taught us that quality of coffee and sourcing are important.

You do not lose any of the health benefits of coffee when you drink health organic coffee. You get the same reduction of the incidence of type II diabetes, various kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and depression/suicide by drinking organic coffee as opposed to regular. The point is that organic coffee production is sustainable and better for the earth.

Thank you, Mr. Peet.


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