Long before Matt Dillon, Chester and Miss Kitty wrapped their hands around a warm cup, coffee was a staple on the frontier. In 1849 while surveying a military route through the Southwest, Lt. William Whiting noted in his journal that coffee was “the great essential in prairie bill of fare.” It was said that many of the early Indian attacks on whites were motivated by a desire for coffee. The Lakota (Sioux) called the brew, “Kazuta Sapa,” or “black medicine.”
Folklore and Hollywood would have you believe Indians only craved alcohol. It ain’t so; it was the Indians love of coffee helped the fur companies prosper. From 1833 to 1859 the American Fur Company would trade the natives one cup of coffee beans for one buffalo robe, a price that was later raised to three cups.
Until about 1860, America suffered through poorly roasted coffee. Along came an inventive-type entrepreneur named John Arbuckle. He figured out a way to roast the green coffee beans and preserve their freshness. He patented a glaze that would seal the beans against deterioration of flavor and aroma. In 1872 he began packing the roasted coffee in one-pound packages and coffee sales skyrocketed. As they say, the rest is history; Arbuckle’s became known as the “Coffee That Won the West.”