During times of war luxuries always become a scarcity, particularly when they have to be imported. Tonnes of coffee was lost at sea during World War 2, carried on ships destroyed by German submarines and aircraft. The coffee which did survive the journey was generally used by the military.
This scarcity and the fact that it isn’t very easy to brew coffee on the battlefield meant that instant coffee began to be produced on a much larger scale. In one year the US military bought more that one million cases, the entire output of the Nescafe factory in the US. Many soldiers on returning home had gotten so used to instant coffee that they continued to drink it, changing the coffee culture forever. The term ‘Cup of Joe’ actually comes from the fact that American soldiers, known to the British locals as ‘G.I Joes’, had a reputation for drinking a lot of coffee. In the First World War, instant coffee was known as a “Cup of George” – not a saying that has stood the test of time!
The civilian population, however, had to settle for coffee substitutes. There are a variety of ways these were made, none very appetising. Often the substitute was made from roasted grain and even contained acorns in times of desperation. Some coffee companies even started to produce an alternative. Postum was made from wheat bran, wheat, molasses and maltodextrin!
Of course, if you were rich enough you could still find coffee on the black market!
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