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2321 Davis St., Unit C
North Chicago, IL


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Memorial Day, Holiday Hours and Cowboy Coffee 1870

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Memorial Day, Holiday Hours and Cowboy Coffee 1870

Carrie Masek

We will be closed this coming Monday, May 27, for Memorial Day, a holiday that goes back to the end of the US Civil War.

The Civil War cost more American lives than any other in our history. After the war, communities began setting aside a special day to tend to and decorate the graves of the many men and boys who died during those horrible four years. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the practice became wide spread and continued until 1971 when “Memorial Day” became an official federal holiday.

Another thing was happening in this country after the Civil War. Many veterans from both sides of the conflict headed west looking for a better life, and they brought their love of coffee with them.

There are many who claim that coffee is one of the reasons the Union won the Civil War. Seriously. The Union army issued coffee with its soldiers' rations. According to many letters and journal entries from the period, the coffee was the best part of those rations. Whole bean coffee, often roasted over a campfire and ground fresh (some carbines had built-in grinders), provided a welcome boost to a diet heavy on salt pork and hard tack. Though no one spoke of caffeine back then, the stimulating qualities of coffee were recognized and appreciated. One union general, General Benjamin Butler, ordered his men to carry coffee in their canteens and planned attacks for when his men would be the most “energized.”

Meanwhile, coffee lovers in the Confederacy had to do without their morning “nerve tonic.” The blockade of southern ports effectively cut off coffee imports to the South. Though many improvised with beverages brewed from roasted rye or sweet potatoes, southern soldiers were at a definite disadvantage when it came to coffee.

That disadvantage ended with the war. By the 1870's, veterans from both sides of the conflict were headed west. Along with staples like flour and dried beans, they often carried green coffee beans in their packs. They roasted the coffee over the campfire and brewed it in a tin pot over the same flames. If you've ever wondered what the coffee might have tasted like, try our Cowboy Coffee 1870, roasted to a Vienna roast level. The beans in the blend are similar to the ones imported during the late 19th century, and the roast level mimics the effect of roasting the beans in a pan over a fire.

Since we’ll be closed for Memorial Day, any orders we receive after noon on Friday, May 24, will be roasted and mailed Tuesday, May 28. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

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~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast