HomeRoast Digest


Topic: coffee in the navy part 1 (149 lines)
1) From: Dennis & Marjorie True
   Grande, skinny, light foam,latte, cappuccino, frappaccino, mocha. 
These are names of beverages that have crept into the English language 
recently as various coffee-based drinks have brought a high degree of 
choice to consumers in all walks of life. As these choices have 
expanded, Navy officers and enlisted personnel have become more 
sophisticated in their beverage choices. This still-growing range of 
coffee choices in the U.S. Navy has evolved slowly over more than two 
centuries, as commercial coffee makers and purveyors developed 
imaginative techniques that today whet the thirst of men and women 
throughout the world.
       When men first went to sea thousands of years ago, their solid 
food and beverage needs were major concerns. In earliest recorded time, 
ships rarely sailed beyond sight of land, where they could easily put in 
to shore to obtain food and water.
       Later, as ships became larger and voyages longer and more 
hazardous, crews were sustained with substantial stores of food 
containers and jugs of water, requiring development of procedures for 
stowing, issuing and consuming them. Sanitary conditions at sea affected 
liquids and other foods aboard ship, leading to boiling water or adding 
alcohol to make it palatable. Before coffee came into use, water was 
supplemented by mead, a drink of fermented honey and water, flavored 
with fruit or spices. The meager rations were carefully doled out during 
each voyage.
       Inevitable onboard shortages on long cruises frequently became 
major issues among the crews, leading to occasional refusals to 
participate in manning their stations and even mutinies. Exhausted 
supplies of liquids far at sea could be replenished solely by capturing 
rainwater in sails, buckets or whatever else was at hand.
       The Old Testament indicates that wine was a popular beverage in 
biblical times. Archaeologists have uncovered ancient hieroglyphics 
describing how to brew beer and have located jugs that were used for 
containing beer more than 5,000 years ago. Although there is strong 
evidence that a strong alcoholic beverage was originally distilled from 
sugarcane in ancient Asia, it was not until the 15th century that 
Europeans learned to convert sugarcane readily into a thick, sweet 
liquor that became known as rum.
       Rum was quickly adopted by Great Britain's Royal Navy. The 
fledgling American Continental Navy was modeled along the lines of the 
RN and, early in 1794, the Continental Congress enacted into law that a 
daily ration for American sailors would be "one half pint of distilled 
spirits," or in lieu thereof, "one quart of beer."
       Royal Navy officials soon noticed that allowing enlisted ratings 
to drink straight rum hampered their performance at sea and endangered 
the safety of their ships. The Admiralty solved this problem by 
specifying that rum be diluted with water, creating a beverage called 
grog, which satisfied Sailors' need for a more thirst-quenching drink 
than water alone.
       Influenced by their English heritage, some American Sailors 
preferred drinking tea. Both coffee and tea could easily be brewed 
aboard ships. As a result of King George III's instituting a tax on tea 
and retaliation by colonists in the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773, the 
Continental Congress declared coffee the national drink of the colonies 
and aboard U.S. Navy ships. American Sailors promptly switched from tea 
to coffee.
       Preserving coffee beans proved to be a daunting task aboard Navy 
ships and in warehouses ashore. Wormholes in the beans roused 
considerable concern because of the unknown effect upon the final brewed 
product from the holes and the insects that caused them. Paymaster F.T. 
Arms addressed this concern in the Navy Cook Book, published in 1902, 
which he authored and distributed. Arms wrote, "The presence of 
wormholes in coffee should not occasion its rejection unless it is of 
inferior quality and strength, since they (the wormholes) generally 
indicate age, weigh nothing, and disappear when the coffee is ground."
       Coffee was served primarily for its satisfying taste and warming 
characteristics, but necessity sometimes fostered other innovative uses. 
In the spring of 1914, the Navy flotilla of destroyers was sen to 
Tampico on the Caribbean coast of Mexico where Marines were landed to 
secure release of arrested American seaman. The skipper of one 
destroyer, realizing that some of his Sailors, who would accompany the 
Marines, had only blues and whites in their sea bags to wear ashore in 
the semitropical climate, turned to his officers for suggestions.
       One unknown destroyer paymaster resolved the problem of providing 
more comfortable tropical uniforms by dipping white uniforms into pots 
of coffee, which effectively transformed them into khakis. A future flag 
officer and chief of Supply Corps, then a yeoman, third class (later 
VADM), Charles W. Fox, reported that there was "absolutely no comfort in 
wearing a uniform soaked from having been dipped in a pot of coffee dregs."
       Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, scandalized by reports of 
drunkenness aboard ship, issued an order 1919 banned the serving of wine 
in the wardroom and any consumption of alcoholic aboardship. Daniels, a 
teetotaler, decreed that only coffee or tea should be served. This was 
not a popular order and Sailors promptly dubbed a cup of coffee as a 
"cup of joe."
       Popularity of coffee continued to increase during the period 
between two world wars as supply officers strove to assure that coffee 
of suitable quality was available in sufficient quantity to sate the 
thirst of officers and Sailors afloat and ashore.
       The importance of coffee to officers and Sailors was driven home 
on 7 December 1941, when supply officers of undamaged or lightly damaged 
combatant ships following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor prepared to 
board supplies for immediate deployment no later than early the next 
morning. CAPT (later RADM) John J. Gaffney, senior Supply Corps officer 
assigned to the Navy Yard Pearl Harbor, issued a series of emergency 
orders to his staff. Among officers he dispatched into action was LTJG 
J. B. Andrade, SC, USNR, one of five Naval Reservists already serving on 
two weeks active duty in CAPT Gaffney's Supply Department. He instructed 
Andrade to drive into Honolulu to make emergency purchase of five tons 
of the popular Kona coffee for issue to fleet units preparing to put to 
sea.
       The young officer was unable to obtain the entire five tons as 
hastily opened wholesale firms turned over their entire Kona coffee 
inventory to him. Anticipating that it might not be possible for LTJG 
Andrade to purchase the full five tons, Gaffney had authorized 
substitution of commercial brands. Andrade purchased and delivered five 
tons of Kona and other acceptable coffee by late evening that day.
       As America went on a full wartime footing, soldiers were issued 
instant coffee in their ration kits. Back at home, shortages of coffee 
eventually led to rationing.
       One frequent World War II saying boasted that Navy ships operated 
on fuel oil and their crews operated on coffee. Many Sailors were 
convinced that U.S. Navy combatant ships in World War II had more 
unofficial "coffee messes" (or coffee pots) in place than crewmen aboard 
- about 2,000 in battleships. Most of these unauthorized "messes" 
consisted of a single electric coffeemaker plugged into the nearest 
electrical outlet in crew quarters, offices, workshops and sometimes 
even at battle stations. The number of individual messes and the 
frequent need to substitute lesser-known brands of coffee were among 
several factors that raised questions about the quality of Navy coffee, 
particularly in the fleet.
       U.S. Navy officials, motivated by the belief that coffee is as 
important to personnel in the fleet as ammunition is to its weapons 
systems, were concerned early during wartime expansion in 1942 over the 
widely varying quality of the roasted coffee being supplied to ships and 
shore stations. The solution was to open Navy fresh coffee roasting 
plants on both the East and West coasts and later in Hawaii.


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