Peet was the founder of Peet’s Coffee, my preferred brand of java. As a master roaster in the San Francisco Bay area, he also influenced the founders of Starbuck’s and changed the way America drinks coffee.
From the SF Chronicle:
He immigrated to San Francisco in 1955 and took a job with coffee
importer E.A. Johnson & Co. He favored high-altitude coffee from Costa Rica, Guatemala and East Africa that his father used to buy, and although there was no market for it in the area, he decided to create one.
“He went to a great deal of trouble to find only the best beans,” said David. “He knew his business like nobody I ever met.”
Importantly, David added, Peet introduced customers to coffee they didn’t know existed.
“We would drink it and it put us in a new realm. It had complexity and richness – that’s the best way to describe it,” said David.
Along the way, Peet influenced younger roasters like James Freeman, owner of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland. “He really opened the door for the specialty-coffee industry,” said Freeman, who said Peet made a radical departure from the roasting style of the day, with smaller batches, darker roasts and higher-quality coffee.
“He really showed that people in America are willing to spend a little bit more money to get a little bit better when it comes to coffee,” said Freeman.
I had known that there was a relationship between the early days of Starbuck’s and Peet’s, but this is the first time I’ve read the full story and the story of Alfred Peet.
I feel bad that the coffee I’m drinking right now was made with Starbuck’s beans. Of course lately I’ve been enjoying the Peet’s from Giant Eagle, but I ran out and was at Target, so…. I’ll pick up some more Peet’s today.
Oh! My parents have recently started drinking Peet’s now — again, because it’s at Giant Eagle. My dad apparently prefers it to Starbucks. He has always had a preference for strong coffee. Another convert.
(Photo copied from the NYT obit, property of Peet’s Coffee & Tea)