A poor young immigrant from Scotland moves to Pittsburg. He founds a new company. Using an innovative manufacturing process, he corners the market on his product and becomes a wealthy robber baron. I know you are thinking it sounds like Andrew Carnage but it’s not. This blog is about the Old West.
This Ariosa then – is it some rare breed of horse prized by cowhands of the old west, and what has that to do with our tycoon? Well, it’s not a horse, but no hand worth his salt in the Old West was ever caught riding the range without it.
This is the story of coffee. It starts when Scotsman, John Arbuckle, opens a grocery distribution warehouse with his brother. It’s the boom time during the Civil War and coffee beans are sold to the Army green. Soldiers roast the beans in a frying pan and crush them with their rifle butts before boiling. One burnt bean will often spoil the brew. Good coffee is hard to come by unless you are in the city. This gives John an idea.
He patented a process in 1865 for air roasting coffee with a sugar and egg coating and invented a machine for rapidly packing the still warm beans in airtight one pound packages. As soldiers left the army and moved west, punching cows, fighting Indians and settling farm land, there was one luxury they could now afford; good consistent coffee. Previously a treat, coffee thus became a staple. Every chuck wagon west of the Mississippi was chock full of Arbuckle’s Ariosa.
The Arbuckle brothers began refining the sugar for their glaze and eventually owned the largest shipping firm in the country, just for shipping beans from Brazil to the US. From this Brazilian connection the Ariosa moniker originated – A– (for Arbuckles) –rio– (as in shipped from Rio de Janeiro) and –sa ( for Santos, another Brazilian export town). Arbuckle’s Ariosa Coffee dominated so completely that for the latter half of the nineteenth century cowpokes simply called for a cup of Arbuckle’s when they needed a pick-me-up, not knowing there was any other brand.
John brilliantly began printing coupons for everything a hand might need, from razors to wedding rings, on his bags of coffee. Owing to the Cowboys’ well known sweet tooth, the company included a peppermint stick in every bag of their Ariosa beans. In desert lands where lumber was scarce, wood repairs were often made from left over Arbuckle’s crates and merchants across the west built shelves from the plentiful boxes. Coffee became the preferred drink of the working man because of John Arbuckle and the Cowboy. Those of us who take a strong hot cup in the morning to get going, owe our thanks to them.
With the popularity of Ariosa among the cowboy class so great, Arbuckle’s bought a vast ranch near Cheyenne, Wyoming. John spent much of his time there directly administering operations up to his death in 1912. With his passing, Folgers and Maxwell House eventually broke the Arbuckle trust.
But you can still buy Arbuckle’s Ariosa today. Ironically, it is now a prized premium coffee, very expensive and available in specialty markets and at resort destinations. It is roasted today in Tucson, Arizona and touted as The Coffee that Won the West. But it’s still packed in one pound packages and includes a peppermint stick inside.
For anyone who wants to try the Coffee That Won the West go to: