Instant coffee invented down south

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 15:40 16/12/2012

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Even New Zealand's coffee elite are willing to raise their glasses to the Kiwi man recently named as the inventor of instant coffee.

Chicago chemist Satori Kato has long been credited with creating the pantry staple in 1901.

But it has recently been revealed David Strang from Invercargill was actually the first person to create "soluble coffee pwoder", or instant coffee, in 1889.

The discovery was made by Susan Irvine, a New Zealand Historic Places Trust heritage adviser, while she was registering the home of David's son James.

Strang, who owned the Coffee and Spice Works factory in Invercargill, applied for the patent for his discovery in 1890, suggesting it wasn't available anywhere else at that time.

New Zealand Speciality Coffee Association vice president Carl Sara said there is no doubting the important place the invention holds in the caffeine habits of Kiwis.

"Instant coffee has historically been a huge part of coffee in New Zealand. We are leaders in a lot of the things being achieved in speciality coffee but a huge amount of consumption in New Zealand is still instant coffee.

"More than any fancy labels or fancy words that anyone can used, the most important thing about good coffee is that you like it."

The former New Zealand Barista champion and owner of the Crafted Coffee Company said Strang joins a long list of Kiwi coffee groundbreakers, but it is important for the industry to look forward, rather than backwards.

"I think there are lots of people who have been responsible for major parts of coffee in New Zealand.  We have drinks like the flat white, which is unique and it's one of those really controversial things about who invented that.

"Of course marking history is important, but it's creating the future of coffee that's the most important thing to us."

The introduction of instant coffee in New Zealand was revolutionary, as described in the Otago Daily Times of the day.

"Strang's soluble coffee powder requires no boiling, but is made instantly with boiling water. Then, again, it can be made in a breakfast cup and requires neither the use of pots nor the employment of experienced cooks."

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said it wasn't unusual for the town's legends to go unheralded.

"This is wonderful news. We have a lot of heroes under represented due to our geographic isolation. A classic example is Burt Munro. No-one knew he still held the speed record [for under 1000cc motorcycles] until the World's Fastest Indian came out."

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