April 2024

The coffee break has become an essential part of corporate life - and life itself - but it's a relatively recent concept, like the expression itself, which dates back only to the mid-20th century. Norwegian immigrants working in the first American factories are credited with having imported the habit of taking a break and enjoying a cup of coffee as early as the 19th century.

Originally, the coffee industry

However, in the 1950s, in the United States as well as in Europe and Asia, coffee was still considered a popular and rather old-fashioned beverage, unlike tea, which was considered refined and often associated with the aristocracy.


Worried by this disaffection, the coffee industry took action. United within the Pan American Coffee Bureau and led by one of the oldest brands, Maxwell House, founded in 1892, they launched a vast advertising campaign to restore coffee's image. Radio, television, billboards, press: the campaign is all over the country, mobilizing the biggest stars of the day, including the great John Wayne himself. Its slogan: "Give yourself a coffee break". The expression made an immediate impression and has endured for seventy years.


The coffee giants succeeded. Less than a year after the campaign was launched, 80% of American companies were giving their workers a coffee break.

An essential ritual

Research indicates that the average adult can only fully concentrate on a task for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Beyond this timeframe, maintaining optimal focus can become challenging.


Incorporating a coffee break after extended periods at the desk can effectively alleviate this weariness, providing a welcomed pause and helping to rejuvenate focus for the tasks ahead.


The coffee break is also a way to incorporate movement in a sedentary situation, and to socialize around a cup – a crucial pause that benefits our wellbeing.

The coffee break in popular culture

From Pulp Fiction to Gilmore Girls, from Friends to The Office, the beverage is intricately woven into the fabric of many film and TV narratives. It symbolizes comfort, conversation and community and often serves as pivotal settings for character interactions and plot development. 


Whether used for comedic effect, romantic moments, or deep conversations, coffee breaks in popular culture reflect the cultural significance of the ritual.