A Short History of the Coffee Break

Written by Lori Thiessen

In the most recent post on the Coffee Shop Office blog, I wrote about the weird things people do on their coffee break. This post is based on an article from CityNews – Toronto. At the bottom of the article was a link to a site called Talk About Coffee, and an article talking about the history of the coffee break.

According to this article, the origin of the coffee break remains a mystery. However, the author of this article believes that it is linked to the invention of the espresso machine. Trying to get his workers to drink their coffee faster, Luigi Bezzera conceived a machine that would use steam pressure to force water through ground beans and, hey presto – espresso coffee was born. Bezzera’s machine was developed in 1901.

In 1902, The Barcalounger Company, when it was known as the Barcolo Manufacturing Company, made a 15 minute break part of its employee benefits package. Free coffee for employees was listed in the expenses of the company in 1901.

But possibly the biggest turning point for the institutionalization of the coffee break was when Time Magazine reported the labour negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the major car manufacturing companies in 1964. Though there were many other things that the union was fighting for including health benefits, it was the fight over the coffee break that nearly brought about a strike. Under pressure from a determined group of workers the major car manufactures gave in and conceded a 12-minute a daily coffee break.

When I was working in more traditional offices years ago, there were some offices that were insistent that you took your 15 minute coffee break at the appointed time, no matter what. Other companies gave their employees a choice: you can either have a full-hour for lunch or take a half-hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks, morning and afternoon. Most of the time, I rarely had time for lunch let alone coffee breaks.

Yet organizational studies and workplace wellness advocates show that the coffee break is good for you. It helps your productivity which is good for the company and the break is good for your physical and mental health.

Q: Why do you think the coffee break got started?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always be Freshly Brewed!


4 responses to “A Short History of the Coffee Break

  1. nice read.

  2. Pingback: It’s Coffee Time: 8 Uncommon Facts About the World’s Favorite Bean

  3. Pingback: On #NationalCoffeeDay: A Brief History of Coffee in the Workplace

  4. Pingback: Buffalo Innovation: A Perk Up to the Work Day – 43North

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