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The world’s first instant coffee was invented by Nestlé in the spring of 1937 and named NESCAFÉ.

Original Nescafé tin.
Historical NESCAFÉ tin

In 1930, Nestlé’s chairman was approached by the Brazilian Coffee Institute and asked to develop coffee that was soluble in hot water and retained its flavour. At the time, Brazil had a huge coffee surplus and it was felt that coffee consumption would increase if a new product was developed. While there were some forms of crystallised or liquid coffee on the market, they were not readily soluble and tasted horrible. After seven years of painstaking research at  the Nestlé research centre laboratory in Switzerland, scientist Max Mortgenthaler finally achieved the desired results, and on 1 April 1938, NESCAFÉ was launched in Switzerland. In the same year, Nestlé applied the technology at its Hayes factory, west London. The new product was named NESCAFÉ - a combination of Nestlé and café.

NESCAFÉ became the staple beverage of the United States armed forces during World War II when it became so popular that the entire production of its U.S. plant, about a million cases a year, was reserved for military use only. From then, its popularity continued to grow.

By the 1950s, coffee had become the beverage of choice for teenagers, who were flocking to coffee houses to hear the new rock'n'roll music, and in 1955 a powder version of Blend 37 was launched with its strong, distinctively continental taste.

A milestone in corporate design came in the year 1961 when NESCAFÉ was first sold in the famous brown tin. Tins were to be phased out over the next ten years. The clear glass jar was introduced in 1970.

Old Nescafé Ad of tins
Old NESCAFÉ Ad of tins

The first NESCAFÉ was a powder produced by spray drying. It is still spray dried today but is processed further into granules.

In 1972, NESCAFÉ Fine Blend, a new mild coffee, was introduced and in 1984 the first premium, freeze dried coffee, Gold Blend, was launched with its rich smooth flavour. The following year Nestlé pioneered the ultra premium freeze dried coffee sector and in 1986 launched Alta Rica and Cap Colombie. NESCAFÉ Alta Rica, made from a combination of top grade A beans from Latin America, is a full bodied, rich, after dinner coffee. The typical character of Cap Colombie is mild and smooth with the aroma of Colombian beans. In 1996, NESCAFÉ Kenjara was added to the range - a light roasted product with a light, delicate but lively flavour.

In 1986 the decaffeinated varieties of the Nestlé range became available.

Nestlé has strived for continuous improvement to its instant coffees using new technologies and much innovation and it was the first manufacturer in the UK to introduce coffee with a new rich aroma to enhance the coffee flavour. This was introduced in Alta Rica and Cap Colombie in 1991, Gold Blend and Blend 37 (now freeze dried granules) in 1993, and finally to the market leader NESCAFÉ in 1994.

Nescafe Orig. 100g jar
NESCAFÉ Original 100g jar


Dr D Kato (a Japanese chemist working in Chicago) patented a process for soluble coffee powder.

Mr G Washington began selling a product he had commercialised after observing coffee powder deposits on the lip of a silver coffee pot in Guatemala.

1914 – 1918
World War I was the main impetus for the production and popularity of instant coffee, with the US Army buying all available supplies for its troops who then wanted instant coffee when they returned home.

Nestlé invents the world's first drinkable instant coffee.

NESCAFÉ is introduced to Britain and coffee production starts at the Hayes factory.

Instant coffee used by troops in World War II.

NESCAFÉ is made with 100% coffee (previously carbohydrates had been added to stabilise the product).

A powdered version of NESCAFÉ Blend 37 is introduced.

NESCAFÉ is packed in its famous brown jar. The original tins are gradually phased out.

Technical development helps retain coffee aroma in NESCAFÉ.

NESCAFÉ Original decaf is launched.

NESCAFÉ Original's 60th Birthday celebration.

Today there is a whole range of instant NESCAFÉ coffees available to suit every taste, including dark rich roasts, lighter, more aromatic roasts, decaffeinated coffees and a range of speciality coffees.

View Nestlé Nutrition Information for Beverages
© Nestlé UK Ltd 2007
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