Coffee with the Presidents

By Dana Routhier

Coffee with the Presidents

For as long as we’ve had presidents, we’ve had coffee in the White House. From John Adams drinking coffee to be more patriotic (…with that Boston Tea Party and all) to Dwight Eisenhower spending D-Day “drinking endless cups of coffee” to John F. Kennedy’s using “Coffee with the Kennedys” to help win his U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, the brew has been an important part of politics.

Here’s a look at a few notable presidents and their coffee-drinking habits.


George Washington was a coffee drinker — and an importer, according to his papers and ledger sheets. In 1770, he imported 200 pounds of coffee.

According to “The Presidents’ Cookbook,” a 1968 book that documented much about presidents and food, Martha Washington had her own “rules for good coffee.” For drip coffee, for every cup of water she used a heaping tablespoon of “specially selected coffee, pulverized as fine as cornmeal.” Black coffee was to be served with sugar before breakfast and after dinner — with some hot milk included in the breakfast cup.


Thomas Jefferson deemed coffee “the favorite drink of the civilised world.” He had beans imported from the East and West Indies, stocking his cellar at Monticello with up to 60 pounds of unroasted coffee. The coffee was roasted, ground, and prepared before being served in a silver coffee urn made to Jefferson’s design in Paris.


Abraham Lincoln was no foodie of his time. “He was almost entirely indifferent to food,” historians note, “except that he liked apples and hot coffee.” An often-cited quote attributed to him: “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”


Teddy Roosevelt, his son once said, had a coffee cup that was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” He was also known for putting as many as seven lumps of sugar into his coffee, and some estimates suggest that he drank a gallon of coffee per day. Legend has it that during a visit to Nashville, he was served Maxwell House coffee and said it was, “Good to the last drop.” The phrase became the company’s catchphrase, and Roosevelt’s image was used in some of its advertising.


George W. Bush would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get coffee for him and his wife. They’d drink it while reading the morning papers. But he apparently got used to having staff assistance! Laura Bush said that he woke up the day after they left the White House and started to make their morning cup. “He had forgotten how,” she told Oprah Winfrey.

Happy President’s Day, everyone!



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