Though specialty coffee in Oklahoma City has emerged only within the last decade, OKC has a long tradition of progressive coffee culture dating back to the 1920s.
You've probably seen Cain's coffee on the shelf at the grocery store. You may have turned your nose up at it's two tone label or pre-ground boasting but beyond the "Flavr Seal" is a fascinating story of OKC entrepreneurship and trailblazing for the modern coffee industry at large.
William Morgan Cain was an Oklahoma civic leader and a coffee pioneer. After spending a portion of his twenties sailing around the world's trading ports with the US NAVY, he founded Cain's Coffee Company in 1919, after the end of World War I. Seeing the coffee and tea ports in Brazil, it seems, inspired the entrepreneurial spirit in Cain. In a time when OKC was largely driven by travel, agriculture, and energy, Cain sourced green beans from South America and roasted them on site in Oklahoma City. He grew his company, providing coffee for grocery stores and restaurants across Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri.
Known for his dedication to local charities, especially those focusing on healthcare for Oklahoma City residents, William Morgan Cain spent the majority of his life in the public eye. A campaign for mayor, several civic awards for service, and chairman positions for both city government and city hospitals took up his time when he wasn't focusing on building the largest coffee supply company in the midwest, even spurring the early success of fellow OKC coffee giant, Neighbors Coffee Company. (Earl Neighbors was his second in command for nearly 30 years.)
Cain's Coffee was bought by Nestle in 1961, who sold to Sara Lee as part of their Superior Coffee line in the 1990's. Sara Lee closed the Oklahoma City plant in 2003, laying off nearly 100 employees, and finally sold Cain's to Farmers Coffee Co. as part of a bundle of coffee producing companies for $45 million in 2008.
William Morgan Cain died in 1983, after a lifetime of local industry and civic leadership.