Legacy business: Coffee-crazed SF is the birthplace of Folgers

For today's San Franciscan, the best part of waking up probably does not mean Folgers in your cup.

Instead, it could be a single-origin pour-over from Ritual Coffee Roasters, Four Barrel Coffee or any other trendy San Francisco-born roaster.

But rest assured, Folgers — arbiters of instant coffee and other convenient ways to imbibe — is the most authentic cup of joe in The City.

Whereas the owners of Four Barrel Coffee can only simulate the lifestyle of the 19th century in black-and-white advertisements of the rugged outdoors, James A. Folger actually handed out samples of his historic brew to real 49ers. He's the Levi Strauss of coffee.

Folgers Coffee Co., founded in 1850, is one of the oldest businesses created in San Francisco. While it no longer roasts coffee in The City — the company experienced a dramatic expansion in the early 20th century when it built a plant in Texas — it started here at the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mill on Powell Street between Broadway and Pacific Avenue.

Twenty years after its founding, Folger would buy out the other partners and rename the company. In 1905, after Folger's death, the company built an office space and processing plant in South of Market that exists to this day.

A San Francisco Examiner article published days after the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed The City said the Folger Building at Howard and Spear streets was one of the few structures that remained standing.

Luciano Repetto, owner of North Beach roaster Graffeo Coffee that was founded in 1935, said that the coffee industry in The City has changed dramatically since his company started.

“Independent roasters were around in the early 1900s everywhere,” he said. But mass marketing after World War II shifted the industry away from small coffee joints and toward companies like Folgers.

“Now it's coming back to individual roasters,” Repetto said.

Sure, Folgers might be the most original, but according to Repetto “you're not gonna get a first-class product.”

150th Anniversary1906 earthquakeBay Area NewsFolgers CoffeeSan Francisco coffee

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read