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Over the last week like many I have absorbed myself into the deep and detailed world of Red Dead Redemption 2, the detail was so good that I started to think about the coffee that Arthur Morgan was drinking at the established camp early on in the game. Yes, it was in a pot and was likely there for some time, perhaps quite strong and not so much to our tastes of today.

It got me thinking though, what was the coffee options of the wild west? The logistical process and roasting of today are fiercely competitive, believe us, we know! After a few days of reading, here is what I came to learn. The options were not as wide-ranging as you get today in our globalised world, not so  I know, the choice before 1865 was quite limited with no commercially available product to hand. Coffee before this time in the west was bought as a green bean product and roasted in a pot over the fire. They had to take care when doing this as one burnt bean could ruin the coffee.

Arbuckles’, marketing at its finest.

In 1865 one of the first commercially available coffee products became available and it was down to two entrepreneurs who were brothers called John & Charles Arbuckle. They had spotted an opportunity in the market to commercialise coffee that was very popular in the west, I bet in its raw form. This coffee was called Arbuckles’ Ariosa Coffee. They removed the risky and labour intensive process of roasting the coffee by the stove and offered a pre-roasted coffee. They did this by coating the coffee beans in a slight mixture of eggs and sugar preserving the flavours for longer. They quickly patented this method and marketed the coffee nationally and were incredibly successful. In part, this was to do with the West’s insatiable appetite for coffee which against popular belief, was more sought after than alcohol. I believe that the other huge part was the marketing that went behind it. Indeed it was pushed into every state in America and the marketing was very well presented as you can see from the image below. The other key element in is winning strategy was the coupon system that was included with every pack, not to mention the bar of peppermint candy!

Every pack of Arbuckles’ came with a Peppermint candy stick which was loved and one of the few affordable sweet treats available. The other draw to this brand was a coupon that could be collected and eventually exchanged for certain sought-after items for a cowboy such as handkerchiefs, razors, scissors and even wedding rings. Given that these marketing ploys were only just gaining momentum they would have been highly effective, much like our own Bean Point rewards we offer at Brown Bear Coffee (click) 

The next issue that our tough cowboys would be facing in the outback would be the grinding of the coffee, this is where the stick of Peppermint candy was often traded. A chef would offer to grind the beans up for them. Some of the more wealthy or handy cowboys would even have custom grinders built into their rifles, such is the power of coffee, even in the untamed land. Now, perhaps a more common practice of today would have been the separation of the coffee grounds from the cup. In the west, it was quite common to let the coffee sit at the bottom and if you did get a mouth full to simply spit it out. For the more picky drinkers out there a cheesecloth or coffee sock was used to separate the grounds, a strainer was also a good option.

A rifle with an inbuilt Grinder, these gained popularity for the handy or wealthy. 

Red Dead timeline and coffee

That’s all well and good but how does the Red Dead timeline fit in with coffee? The Rockstar game is set in 1899, this is after the civil war and 16 years before the start of WWI. The land was beginning to be tamed and cultivated, though opportunity still existed for the less-desirables. Coffee had already been a staple for a few decades and was marketed in towns and cities all across America. There were a few other competitors at this stage more notable would have been the more familiar coffee brand to us in Britain called Maxwell House. This was a coffee brand that started in 1892 and unlike Arbuckles’, was not named after the founders but the hotel that served it. Interestingly the former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was inducted into the Ku Klux Klan in this hotel in 1866. The hotel was demolished in 1961, in part due to the synonymous history with the notorious hate group. 

It’s unlikely that the cowboys of the outback would have heard much about Maxwell coffee. Arbuckles’ had such dominance in the market at this time that many believed there to be only one kind. Maxwell would eventually become a well respected global brand where Arbuckles’ would move away from its once dominant position.

A little about Maxwell

Maxwell Coffee started out as an almost white label offering, the brand was named after the hotel it was first served which was eventually exclusively served there due to popular demand of the hotel guests. Maxwell was the brand but the company was called Nashville Coffee and Manufacturing Company, it started off with a punt by the entrepreneur called Joel Cheek who decided to give £20 worth of his coffee to the hotel, this was good until the hotel ran out and continued to serve the previous stuff to the dismay of their guests. Maxwell Hotel quickly began to serve Joels Coffee exclusively. 

“A cup of Joe”

In my research phase, I did for this post the term ‘cup of Joe’ popped up a few times, a few that were even used in some old cowboy movies, this got me wondering where this term had originated from. One theory is that this was found in a military officer’s manual back in 1931 and was the abbreviation made by the military which was the shortening of the coffee origin such as Java + Mocha. Another idea stems from the name Joe being rather common at the time being that this drink was one loved by the common man. I’d say like a builders tea, my favourite of the teas.

A guide to making coffee in Red Dead Redemption 2

I’ve not quite got to this stage yet though it is on my list of things to do in this virtual space, you can make coffee using a percolator in RDR2, such is the detail in this game. Here is the link to the guide.  Well, that’s my research into coffee in the wild west, for the time being anyway. Now I’m off to find my inner barrister in my virtual outlaw playground. Thank you for reading and I hope you have gained something from this and more importantly keep enjoying your coffee in all of its forms. 

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