By Dale Detrick
“Ouch!” That is what you would exclaim if a zarf had not been invented to help out.
For many, the word zarf is something that sounds like an alien language. In reality, people use this wonderful invention every day to prevent terrible burns. We know it as a coffee cup sleeve.
Originally from the Arabic language, the word meant “envelope,” according to Sesquiotica. In Victorian times, it came to mean an ornamental holder used hold to glass, wooden, or porcelain cups. The zarf was used so as not to burn the hands of the people that were drinking a hot beverage.
The metal cup holder served as a way to decorate an otherwise plain cup. It also became a symbol for rich aristocracy to exhibit their wealth and status in the community. When a person would be seen with a fashionable zarf holding their coffee, there would be jewels or expensive metals such as gold and silver on the drink holder as an added attraction.
This wacky invention has an even wackier plural name, “zaruuf” according to vocabulary.com. Since the word is a loaner to English from Arabic, English speaking people simply add an -s onto the word to make it plural. This form has gained a great deal of acceptance (from people who actually use the word “zarf” to begin with) : however the suffixes – es and -ves are among the accepted spelling for the word, according to dictionary.com.
Jay Sorensen patented the cardboard version of the coffee cup sleeve in 1991 under the trademarked name “Java Jacket” according to The Smithsonian. Sorensen invested $20,000 into the idea to start a company called “Java Jacket Incorporated.” This company, which employed only four people in 2001, brought over $8 million to the economy and sold in excess of 250 million coffeee cup sleeves according to accountingdegree.org.
Today we see iterations of the zarf in the form of cardboard coffee cup sleeves at Starbucks, metal rings on drinking cups or, more commonly, in the form of rubber rings that are on insulated mugs. Though the invention is something most people use on a daily basis or even have in their homes, its name goes unmentioned.
Some companies deal exclusively in the coffee cup sleeve market and print quantities of between 250 and 15,000 cup sleeves per order. The companies mainly deal with large store chains, such as the very popular Starbucks, McDonalds, or even traveling food services that go to fairs and festivals to hand out frothy, foaming, hot beverages.
This is just one of many inventions with a name that very few people have heard of. Jay Sorensen gave the world a very important invention because he found a need for people to be safer when drinking hot beverages.
Many people go through life thinking that people who invent the next big thing put millions of dollars into the idea and that the process to make it is long and drawn out. Sometimes all it takes is a burnt hand and a little ingenuity to come up with a solution that even Starbucks tries to buy. Plus, it does help that it has a fun name. Think of zarf the next time you get a hot cup of coffee to go and thank it because your hand is nice and cool.