The idea of instant coffee actually goes back a long way before Nescafé. In the battle of the brews someone or other was always trying to get the essence of it bottled or tinned – both for the sake of convenience, as making coffee back in the 19th century was a time- consuming process, and because sometimes there simply wasn't a roasting pan and grinder readily available. The first successful 'instant' coffee was hardly coffee at all. Created by Paterson & Sons of Glasgow in 1876, Camp Coffee was barely five percent coffee essence and twenty-five percent chicory in a solution of sugar water.
The first commercial breakthrough in developing a drinkable instant coffee came in 1901, at the Pan American Exhibition held in Buffalo, New York, where a small booth was set up by Kato Coffee Company. A leaflet handed out at the time read, 'Satori Kato is the name of a scholarly Japanese who after many years of research and study has succeeded in discovering a process for the condensation and purification of coffee.'
World War I gave G. Washington Coffee a splendid opportunity to imbed its product within a closed community of desperate soldiers who found the bitter taste of this soluble gunk fitted in quite well with life in their rat-infested trenches: it kept them awake enough to appreciate the pure horrors of war.
Instant coffee was brought about both by need and desire: the need of a coffee industry bursting at the seams and desperately searching for new and more lucrative horizons; and the desire of an ever anxious populace to find a ready boost for energy exhaustion.