MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are Decaf Coffee Pots Orange?

Much like an orange traffic cone gives you a heads-up about nearby roadwork, the orange spout & handle of a decaf coffee pot is a signal to both the people who drink coffee & the servers who pour it. But, that color wasn’t chosen simply for its eye-catching qualities. Orange is a bit of branding left behind by the original purveyors of decaf joe.

Decaffeinated coffee first came to America with a German company called Sanka, a combination of the words “sans” (“without”) and caffeine. Sanka sold its decaffeinated coffee in glass jars with orange labels. That orange packaging was the company’s calling card, because it was the first decaffeinated coffee brand to hit the market & consumers looked for that color whenever shopping for decaf.

In 1932, General Foods purchased Sanka & began promoting it. To help spread the word about decaf, the company sent orange Sanka coffee pots to coffee shops & restaurants around the U.S. And, even if waiters & waitresses weren’t used to serving 2 types of coffee, the orange spout & handle made it easy to distinguish the decaf from the regular.

The scheme was so successful, orange eventually became synonymous not just with Sanka, but all decaf coffee. And, when other coffeemakers began to offer & market their own decaffeinated alternatives, they used the same color Sanka had already made popular.

So, if you’re thinking about sipping a cup of joe now, be sure to ask for the orange pot. You don’t need all that caffeine this late in the day. (You’re welcome.)

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