How The Workplace Coffee Break Was Created

When did coffee become such a staple of office culture and the workday? That extra pick-me-up in the morning or the middle of the afternoon is commonplace today, but have workers always had a breakroom with a coffee machine to refuel and get through the end of a shift? To start, Americans drink a lot of coffee of all different styles and brewing methods. In a survey by the National Coffee Association, 70% of Americans said they drink coffee at least once a week, and 62% of coffee drinkers said they drink their favorite brew on a daily basis.

Of course, coffee breaks aren't just for drinking coffee. Some people use these breaks to smoke, take a walk, or scroll through Twitter, but 43% of those surveyed do use that time to drink coffee, per BrewSmartly. But that wasn't always the case. Before the advent of online shopping and coffee chains like Starbucks, with dozens of drink options from seasonal lattes and frappuccinos to iced coffee, these workday breaks looked a little bit different. In fact, coffee breaks were actually born in a small town in America's Dairyland, which now plays host to a festival dedicated to this institution, according to the town's Chamber of Commerce.

Stoughton, Wisconsin gets the credit

Stoughton, Wisconsin's Chamber of Commerce says we have the city's Norwegian immigrants to thank for the daytime respite known as the coffee break. Back in 1880, Stoughton's Gunderson Tobacco Warehouse needed extra help and turned to the female population to help with steaming its tobacco. Women in Stoughton were able to run home during the course of their workday to check in on their households and get dinner cooking. Once they ensured everything was in order, they would take a moment for a quick cup of coffee, and thus the coffee break was born. Stoughton is so proud of their workplace contribution, they even host an annual Coffee Break Festival in August.

Per Bloomberg, the concept quickly caught on because the 20th century saw the coffee break spread to workplaces across the nation, with many believing these breaks made for better workers. But it was not only a small period of time to clear a mind of facts and figures; the coffee break was a time to be social and bond over common employee gripes. In fact, it became so popular that it was suggested that women who stayed home should take one too, as it only stood to make them more productive as well. Today, coffee breaks may not always involve coffee, but they are still a welcome part of the workday.