Now there’s always speculation as to who, when, where, and how the “Coffee Break” had come about. It allegedly originated in the late 19th century in Stoughton, Wisconsin by immigrant women who took mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks from their shifts to go home and tend to their children. All the while, they were free to snack or have a cup of coffee during the break.
On another study, two New York companies early in the 20th century claimed that they were the first to provide such a breaks to their employees while supplying complimentary coffee. The “Coffee Break” was merely a part of the social change in the workplace where minimum wage, labor unions, and more benefits were being established for all workers.
The “Coffee Break” ritual – a routine, yet short social gathering for coffee or a snack by employees during a work shift – was not adopted by American businesses and industries until 1952 when a Pan-American Coffee Bureau ad campaign urged consumers to “Give Yourself a Coffee-Break – and Get What Coffee Gives to You”. It nearly set-off a strike in 1964 by the United Auto Workers who demanded a daily 15-minute Coffee Break in their contract. While some companies offer a designated area or even a set time for a Coffee Break in addition to complimentary beverages like coffee, some states such as California are required by law to offer such breaks to all of their employees. Generally, the Coffee Break has come to denote any break from work, usually lasting from 10 to 20 minutes in between a shift of four consecutive hours.