Posted on

Caffeine on a Mission: The Story of Stewarts Red Eye

Long-distance flights. Secret missions. All-night strategy sessions. These and more are part of serving our country. But even the most dedicated and seasoned military personnel in the line of duty are still human—and can get sleepy. 

It’s the reason why, in 1945, United States armed forces personnel requested a special Stewarts Coffee blend under private contract. The goal: to keep United States Military and Air Force members awake and alert for extended periods of time. 

Think about it: World War II was still going on, as the Allies fought Japan in the Pacific. World powers were locked in conflict, and the stakes for missions were higher than ever before. Our military personnel needed every edge to be alert, with fast reaction times and precise reflexes. 

Caffeine Use in the Armed Forces

Enter caffeine, the most commonly used drug in the world. In fact, nearly two-thirds of US adults drink at least one cup of coffee a day, and 90% of us consume caffeine daily in coffee, tea, and soda. Caffeine makes us alert and gives us an edge. That’s why we drink it first thing in the morning, use it to stave off the 2:00 pm slump, or drink a cup of coffee when we need to pull an all-nighter.

Caffeine has this superpower because it blocks a naturally occurring chemical in our brains called adenosine. Adenosine slows our actions and thoughts when it’s time to rest. Caffeine, though, essentially flips adenosine’s “off” switch and gives us that snappy, get-up-and-go feeling. 

Civilians aren’t the only ones consuming caffeine—a recent study has shown that nearly 85% of US military personnel also consume caffeine daily from coffee and other caffeinated beverages (and findings show that Air Force personnel consume more than the average across the combined Armed Forces). 

The benefits of caffeine include increased alertness, elevated mood, and better cognitive performance for soldiers on both desk duty and the battlefield. It’s about being ready for anything, at any time.

A History of Caffeine Use in the Military

Our 1945 private contract is part of a long tradition of caffeine use by soldiers and military personnel. Coffee was one of the four staples for American Civil War soldiers, along with beef, beans, and hardtack. In Britain in 1942, Winston Churchill declared that tea was more important than ammunition to his soldiers. Meanwhile, the German war office stocked tons of kola nuts, based on their longtime use by African warriors in keeping them alert. And, on this side of the pond, coffee was briefly rationed during WWII so that soldiers could get enough. 

Given this history of caffeine use, it makes sense that we developed a bold brew to keep military personnel awake and ready to take action at any time. The twist is that it was so popular—and received such rave reviews—that we began to manufacture the blend for the American people. Today it’s known as Stewarts Red Eye…serious brew with attitude. 

In the nearly 80 years since the war, caffeine has continued to be essential for those in the line of duty. Today, the US military gives soldiers caffeinated items in their meals-ready-to-eat (MREs), including beef jerky, soft drinks, maple syrup, mints, and gum. Of course, you’ll always find plenty of coffee drinkers serving our country. 

Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

As Memorial Day approaches on May 29, we take a moment to remember and honor those who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces. We are grateful for their service and sacrifice to our country. 

Stewarts Red Eye

Now that you know the story of Stewarts Red Eye, we hope you’ll enjoy the blend, no matter where your mission in life takes you. You can find Stewarts Red Eye in stores or order online

About Stewarts Coffee

Stewarts Coffee was established in 1913 by William A. Stewart on Chicago’s West Side—and for 100+ years has made some of America’s best coffee as the city’s oldest family-owned coffee company. This tradition dates back to the 1930s when Stewarts Private Blend Coffee was chosen as the “Official World’s Fair Coffee” during the Century of Progress World’s Fair held in Chicago. Today Stewarts’ passion to serve fine coffees and teas has employees traveling the world to bring customers the very best. Learn more at