Our grandfather, William A. Stewart, had a passion about fine coffees and teas. He was blessed with a connoisseur’s palate and a nose that could discern subtle aromas, the essential tools of a coffee blender.
William was a smart businessman. In 1913, at a time, when gourmet quality coffees and teas were a true rarity, he seized the opportunity to pursue his passion. He founded a small coffee and tea company in Chicago with the intent to offer the very best coffees and teas to discriminating customers. William enjoyed experimenting with every kind of coffee bean available and spent plenty of time in the tasting room or the “lab” as he called it, blending beans until he found what he believed to be the best blend to offer to his customers. His scientist gene was passed down the generational ladder and today his grandson Don Stewart Jr. can frequently be seen in the tasting room wearing his white lab coat.
A firm believer in quality, William traveled the world in search of the rarest and finest coffees and teas to create his blends. His efforts paid off. Before long, many of Chicago’s elite establishments such as the Drake Hotel and Marshall Field & Company requested Stewart to develop custom coffee and tea blends A salesman loads up for his daily deliveries to please their discriminating patrons. Stewarts specially formulated blends became known as “Private Blend.”
In the days when trains were the means of luxury travel, trains traveling from Chicago to all parts of the country were well stocked with Stewarts. On one occasion in 1927, Chicago & North Western Railway requested and extra twenty-five pounds of Stewarts coffee for President Calvin Coolidge’s hunting excursion to the Black Hills.
The greatest honor bestowed upon our grandfather was when Stewarts Private Blend Coffee was chosen as the “Official World’s Fair Coffee” during the 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair held in Chicago.
When William A. Stewart passed away in 1941, his son, Donald R. Stewart, took the helm.
During World War II, Stewarts was given a secret military contract to develop an especially strong coffee to keep our fighter and bomber pilots awake and alert. Because coffees from Sumatra and Java were unavailable at the time, Stewarts experimented with Central and South American aged coffees to develop the right formula. This blend has since been refined and is now sold under the name Red Eye, one of our most popular blends.
In 1957, Stewarts moved its offices and roasting plant to a then modern, single story building on Wrightwood Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood, where it stands today.
Donald R. Stewart maintained the quality standards and reputation until 1975, when the third generation of Stewarts took over the reins. Donald R. Stewart Jr. & Robert S. Stewart, William’s grandsons, are the current Stewarts leading the company.
Today, Stewarts Private Blend Foods is Chicago’s oldest family owned coffee company. We still enjoy a distinguished reputation because we remain committed to the standard of excellence set by our grandfather. We still travel the world to bring you the very best coffees and teas.