Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, Washington D.C. natives who fought in Afghanistan together as infantry officers, say coffee was such a hot item in the field that even flavored prepackaged cappuccinos were regarded as precious items. From the Times piece.
Sometimes you would get a packet of hot chocolate, other times instant coffee or apple cider, and other times tea. Since Marines have different preferences, an intricate barter system evolved, and it was especially useful when assembling the components to make coffee.
“Hey man, I’ll trade you my Skittles for that packet of Irish cream cappuccino.”
“No way, Irish cream cappuccino is gold. You’re gonna have to sweeten the deal.”
“All right, fine. You can have my chocolate chip cookies, too.”
The pair also shed some light on the historical significance of coffee drinking among service men and women in the United States and abroad, even putting forth a theory on the origin of the “Americano.”
By the time of World War II, American servicemen were consuming 32.5 pounds of coffee per capita, per year, with the Army Quartermaster Corps going so far as to roast, grind, vacuum pack and ship its own beans overseas. Meanwhile, legend has it that when soldiers in Italy encountered espresso, they watered it down to make a concoction similar to the coffee they drank at home. There are many competing accounts, but some people surmise that these were the humble beginnings of the drink we now know as an “Americano.”
Years later, when it was our time to join the Marines, Vietnam veterans told us stories about burning C4 explosive to make their coffee in the jungle. We weren’t as cool — the rations we were issued came with a flameless chemical heater — but like those before us, coffee would serve as one of the few constants in our otherwise nomadic existence.
For the full piece, visit the New York Times.
For more on Haft and Suarez, or their book, click here. The book is tailored to home coffee lovers who want to dive a bit deeper into brewing technique and coffee science. The authors say they wrote it after years of casually loving coffee and then finally “stumbling across the world of specialty coffee.