It was a random news release that sparked the childhood memory. One of those brand names we tend to take for granted had launched a marketing gimmick, a month-long contest on radio and online called “The Mystery of Great Coffee — Solved by Eight O’Clock® Coffee.”
I flashed back on my grandmother’s kitchen in Columbus, where a percolator pot of that brew stood ready most every day when I was a kid. I recalled thrusting my nose into a bag of Eight O’Clock after freshly grinding the beans in one of those cool machines that grownups would let children operate. The grinders were in every A&P supermarket, the original home of the Eight O’Clock brand.

Coffee was a staple when A&P opened its first store in 1859, and Eight O’Clock was born in 1919. Legend has it that a consumer survey indicated 8 o’clock — morning and evening — as the time when most coffee was consumed. Adults sipped caffeine well past sunset in those pre-decaf days.

In a world of gourmet beans and blends, it’s comforting to see some stalwart national brands — and not just Folger’s and Maxwell House — perking along: Chock Full O’ Nuts, Yuban and even White Castle. Locally, Wallingford has its devotees, and other store brands such as Millstone have gained market share.

Many A&P stores, of the once-great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., have gone the way of coffee percolators. Yet Eight O’Clock Coffee still steams along, now ranking No. 3 in U.S. retail coffee sales.