History of Coffee in New York City – And you thought it all started in Seattle!

Another one from the “And you thought it all started in Seattle!” series.

During the North East Regional Barista Championship (NERBC) 2011, guest speaker Donald Schoenholt from Gillies Coffee gave a long and inspired speech on the history of coffee in New York City – and North America in many ways.

Too bad we couldn’t film the entire presentation, but about 90% of it is here in a 5-part video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

A very special visitor

Here today we were very pleased to receive Herb Dallis, who was second generation owner of Dallis Bros. Coffee. Herb’s father Morris, together with his brother Abe, founded Dallis Bros. Coffee in 1913 selling coffee house-to-house in Queens and Long Island. Herb took over the business and throughout the 20th century expanded the wholesale sales and made it into one of the leading artisanal coffee companies in the Northeast.

Herb is also living proof that drinking coffee does good to you. At [undisclosed age], he walks, talks and does more than most people I know.

Vintage coffee can

Now take a look at the piece of our history that we just found on ebay!

That’s a coffee can we used to distribute back in the day. Perfection Blend. Our best guess so far is that it’s from the 1920’s or 1930’s.  Our phone number was 0047. That’s right: 0047. Back when area codes did not exist.

Also notice the neighborhood is referred to as Richmond Hill (not Ozone Park, where we technically are now) and it says Long Island, when now it is proper to just say Queens.


UPDATE 03/29/2011:

Herb Dallis, 2nd generation owner of Dallis Bros, Coffee (until he sold the business to his son David in the early 2000’s), visited today and estimated the can is from the mid 1920’s:

“That was before the split between Woodhaven and Long Island. (…) See the telephone number, people used to get their phone and ask the operator to speak to HR 0047, there were no area codes. The 1930’s, if I recall correctly, was when area codes were introduced. Our coffees were sold in cans to homes in Queens, door-to-door. Perfection Blend was our main blend, composed of mostly Brazilian, Colombian and a little bit of Ethiopian coffees. Back then you could also buy these components from us as straights. In the late 1920’s, business grew and in order to focus on sourcing and roasting great coffee, we sold the routes to our drivers  and they helped us expand.”

*straights = name given to single origin coffees back then, as opposed to a blend of different coffees.