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Dear Matthew Alice:

I think I've asked every short-order cook, waitress, chef, bus boy, whoever, for years this question, and nobody's ever been able to tell me. Why, WHY are restaurant coffee pots for decaf coffee orange?

-- Wes, full o java

Sometime around 1903, I guess we were all so jittery from centuries of drinking the real stuff that a German came up with a way to decaf our favorite brew. General Foods borrowed the technique in the 1920s and gave it a sexy French name, Sanka, and put it in a black, white and orange can. But since the stuff wasn't going to sell itself, around 1920 salesmen hit the trail giving away coffee pots to all the restaurants and cafes that sold Sanka. The pots had orange handles and the Sanka name. As time went on and other decafs came on the market, orange pots just became the standard to help the waitress tell which is which.

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