Alfred H. Peet
- 87 years old
- Born Mar 10, 1920
- Died Aug 29, 2007
- United States
Mr. Peet, often called the “grandfather of specialty coffee,” started his business in Berkeley, Calif., in 1966, with a single retail coffee bean outlet that blossomed into a public company with 150 stores in 10 states.
He is credited with mentoring and inspiring a generation of coffee entrepreneurs, including the founders of Starbucks.
Mr. Peet was born in 1920 in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, where he learned the coffee trade while cleaning machinery and running errands at his father’s small coffee roastery. As a teenager, he moved to London and was an apprentice at Lipton’s Tea. He later traveled to Indonesia and worked as a tea taster, before immigrating to San Francisco in 1955.
“At the time, America had a reputation, internationally, as having coffee that tasted like dishwater,” said Jim Reynolds, a buyer and roaster at Peet’s since 1984 who holds the title roastmaster emeritus. “He was very frustrated. He knew good-quality coffee existed, but no one in the states was buying it. He looked at it as something of a crime.”
Friends and protégés described Mr. Peet as charming and witty, yet demanding and at times, rigid. Many believe it was Mr. Peet’s encyclopedic knowledge of coffees and teas that led to the company’s success.