Even simple processes like brewing tea and coffee could be simplified by processing. The flavor in coffee beans is a volatile essence, which begins to dissipate when the roasted bean is ground. Hence, traditionally, coffee beans would only be ground immediately before use. In 1878, Chase & Sanbourn of Boston, Massachusetts, packaged ground, roasted coffee in sealed cans to preserve its flavor. In 1901, a Japanese-American chemist, Satori Kato, produced the first soluble instant coffee for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Eight years later, George Constant Louis Washington of New York produced a soluble coffee powder, which he sold under the George Washington brand name. However, instant coffee was not mass-produced until the late 1930s. The Swiss food company, Nestlé, developed a mass-production method for instant coffee in order to exploit the surplus of Brazilian coffee beans. Nestlé mass-marketed their instant coffee as Nescafé from 1938. The American food giant General Foods produced an instant coffee in 1942 specifically for supply to the United States Army. It was marketed to the public as Maxwell House instant coffee after World War II. However, the American public tended to shun instant coffee, whereas in Britain and Japan, it made up about 90 percent of coffee sales. The standard drying technique involves spraying brewed coffee into a rising column of heated air, which removes the water as steam, leaving a powder residue. Freeze-drying technology improved in the 1950s and was applied to instant coffee in the mid-1960s. Freeze-dried coffee retained more flavor because the volatile oils remained.

Although coffee is the dominant hot beverage in the United States, the British public has always preferred tea. This may explain why the idea of the tea bag originated in the United States, where consumers needed more persuasion to drink tea. In 1904, a New York tea and coffee merchant, Thomas Sullivan, decided to send customers tea samples in muslin pouches. It was in this form that tea bags were first commercially produced in the United States in 1919. At first, manufacturers saw the catering industry, rather than private consumers, as the main market for tea bags, but by the mid-1930s, Tetley, of NewYork, was mass-marketing tea bags. In Britain, the public at first shunned the tea bag as an inferior product. This was justified insofar as tea bag manufacturers were able to use the fine “sweepings,” previously treated as a waste product. These sweepings would have leaked out of the paper cartons used to package loose-leaf tea. Improvements in tea bag technology, giving improved infusion, helped to sell the concept of the tea bag. By 1993, over 80 percent of tea sold in Britain was in the form of tea bags.