The Iconic Coffee & Donut Pairing

Quite a few years ago, we had a Dunkin Donuts open up in the city I live in – Vadodara. Being the donut lover I am, with my sweet tooth, how could I not be excited? After waiting patiently for about two weeks for the initial crowd to die down, I made my way and pushed the door open. The outlet was on my way to work, so it was convenient and would become quite a habit in the days to come. I would pick whatever was the Donut of the Day or anything that caught my fancy, along with my coffee and settle down at a corner table. If I was running late, the order would be to go, with the next 5-10 minutes spent requesting and some more requesting to the staff to pack my coffee properly so I could actually have the coffee I paid for, and not end up donating it to the road, or the scooter boot, or the parking floor. Most cafes do not understand that there are single people like me on a scooter who take their beverages to go and do not have anybody to hold it for them in transit, which requires proper packing. Till date, Starbucks is the only, only cafe I have found who diligently pays attention to this and their takeaway packaging is single-friendly and always on point.

Back to my story. My favorite coffee at Dunkin was the Tough Guy Cappuccino. Dunkin had an India-special coffee menu featuring dour special coffees –

  1. The Bangalore Startup Coffee
  2. Boston Black Coffee
  3. Therapeutic Cappuccino
  4. Tough Guy Cappuccino

The Tough Guy Cappuccino was a ‘hard-working’ triple shot of dark roast 100% Arabica espresso in rich textured milk with a hint of brandy flavor. Well, the name says ‘Tough guy’ and it had a hint of brandy flavor (just the flavor, Gujarat is still a dry state), so isn’t it obvious this would make it to my choices?

It is while getting into this habit of having Donuts and Coffee every day that I realized this was a typical American habit, especially those of the American cops. A colleague sharply pointed out the same too, and wondered, quite out loud, if I was planning to move to America and was practicing. Curious Cathy that I am, I got digging into why and how this iconic Donut and Coffee pairing came to be.

But before I address that, the spell check has been shouting at me with those red lines that it i ‘Doughnut’ not ‘Donut’, and yet I continue to stick to the latter. So, let’s talk about that for a bit.

Is it Doughnut or Donut?

The official dictionary spelling is Doughnut. The expedited, simplified, Americanized spelling is Donut. ‘Donut’ has been around since the late 19th century but it didn’t catch on until the 20th century. Why? Because it was then that Dunkin Donuts took off and gained popularity.

So, for the purpose of this blog, I’ll stick to Donut. Both Doughnut and Donut are ok to use.

And now let us get back to what we were talking about before this.

How did the Donut + Coffee pairing come to be?

Sometime around the 1960s, a man named William Rosenberg began sellling donuts through his catering truck in Massachussetts. By this time, Krispy Kreme was already a big hit in the country. Soon, Rosenberg went on to open a donut shop by the name ‘The Open Kettle’ in Quincy, Massachussetts. Two years later, The Open Kettle would become the Dunkin Donuts. By 1979, there were around 1000 Dunkin Donuts outlets across the United States giving a very tough competition to Krispy Kreme.

However, back when Rosenberg was still selling the donuts from his catering truck, he noticed that donuts with coffee accounted for about 40% of his sales. Apparently, in the post-World War II world, late-night and early morning donut shops became quite popular in the US. As it would happen, donut shops were usually the only businesses open in town past midnight. Police officers working late shifts would frequent these donut shops looking for a quick bite and some coffee to keep them awake and alert on their shift. Rosenberg has opined in his autobiography that he hoped to create a welcoming warm environment for these police officers as it would in turn provide free policing and security to the donut shops, minimizing the threats of robberies and thefts. It is from here that the popular stereotype of the donut and coffee consuming American cop started. This stereotype was further popularized by American TV and movies. Take the popular character – Chief Wiggum, for instance. Wiggum is the Chief of Police of Springfield, the place where The Simpsons is based out of, and almost always has a donut in one hand and a coffee in the other. Or take the Ice Cube song – Say Hi to the Bad Guy.

When it came to meals, graveyard cops in the forties and fifties had few choices. They could pack lunch, pray for an all-night diner on their beat, or fill up on donuts. Donuts usually won out. They were, to most palates, tasty, and they were cheap and convenient.

Michael Krondl, Author of ‘The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin

The New York Times has also reported that the cop-donut relationship contributes to donut shops having one of the lowest robbery rates, among the different types of retail businesses. Criminals would definitely know better than anyone else that the cops would be just around the corner of a place serving late-night coffee and donuts. However, in recent times, this relationship has taken some hits – in the face of police brutalities and incidents.

But the donut and coffee pairing continues strong. A 2020 NPD Group Report has reported that from October 2018 to October 2019, 2.1 billion coffee orders were palced at donut shops, compared to 805 million donut orders. The report has also mentioned that 68% of purchases from donut shops included a coffee order, while only 30% included a donut.

So, this is how the coffee and donut pairing and the iconic image of the American cop chugging a hot coffee with a donut came along. Is this coffee + donut pairing something you enjoy or prefer or would you rather have them separate? Tell me in the comments below or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie

One Comment Add yours

  1. bhavipatel says:

    Reblogged this on blackbeautyandme.

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