The complete guide to International Coffee Day

16 Jun 2020

Events Food + Drink Hot Chocolate

We’ve brewed up a guide to International Coffee Day so that you can fuel your coffee addiction in the right way.

Coffee is a pretty hot shot in Britain. In fact, each Briton consumes roughly 2.8kg of coffee, per person, per year. It’s not just us Brits who can’t resist that caffeine craving: apart from oil, coffee is the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world, and an average of 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide everyday.

The popularity of coffee means it’s no surprise that it has it’s very own day dedicated to it. However, International Coffee Day isn’t just an excuse to drink endless cups of coffee (as if you needed an excuse anyway!). Whilst this day pays respect to the humble coffee bean, it also celebrates the farmers, roasters, baristas and coffee shop owners: without them, the coffee bean would never be able to make its way into our life.

We’ve dunked into the history surrounding coffee, the different varieties of coffee bean, and how coffee is made as a nod to International Coffee Day. So, grab a mug of the good stuff  and settle down to find out everything you need to know about International Coffee Day!

cup of coffee with coffee beans around it

What is International Coffee Day?

International Coffee Day was first launched in 2015 with the help of The International Coffee Organisation, which works with both importing and exporting governments to help tackle issues facing the coffee world through international cooperation. Its 44 member states represent 98% of world coffee production and 67% of coffee consumption, and by working together, the governments can ensure coffee is produced to meet global demand in an ethical, sustainable way.

International Coffee Day might have been set up to promote and celebrate coffee, but its purpose isn’t to only recognise the irresistible taste of coffee. It also pushes for the consumption of Fairtrade coffee, and also raises awareness surrounding the problems coffee bean farmers may face. In England, it is held on 1 October every year, although other countries also hold it on 29 September, and many shops offer free or discounted cups of coffee.

What does International Coffee Day focus on?

Each year, International Coffee Day focuses on different ways to improve the future of sustainable coffee production. Although the demand for coffee is growing faster than ever, this is actually damaging the livelihoods of the farmers who grow the coffee beans.

coffee beans in a sack ready for roasting for coffee

Coffee yields have been so successful over the past few years that there is now a surplus of coffee. This means the market price of coffee has been driven down to a 15-year low, yet the cost of production for farmers has increased.

This is a financial crisis for farmers – whilst your cup of coffee might have not changed in price at all, the farmer can be paid as little as one cent (USD) for their crop yield per cup. To combat this, the International Coffee Organisation has set up a petition to put pressure on those who have the power to make change possible for the farmers, ensuring they receive a fair income to support their livelihoods. To find out more about last year’s petition, click here.

A coffee fable

Before we dive into how you can celebrate International Coffee Day this year, let’s learn a little more about this humble bean.

The history of coffee is just about as rich as a double espresso. Coffee originates from Ethiopia and, according to one legend, was discovered around 700 AD when a goat-herder named Kaldi discovered that his flock were behaving strangely lively after eating unusual berries, and so decided to show these berries to a monk.

Some stories claim that the monk took the berries that Kaldi shared with him and made a drink out of them. This drink kept him alert all through the long and late hours of his evening prayers and soon the power of this energising drink spread throughout the monastery. Other sources claim that the monk threw the berries into the fire, causing them to release a delicious aroma, prompting the monk to reconsider his initial rejection of the berries.

different ages of coffee bean

However, others believe that a man named Omar, disciple of influential Moroccan scholar and Sufi Sheikh Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhili, discovered these berries after he was exiled from Mecca to a desert cave. Starving, he discovered these berries, although found them too bitter to eat. He then roasted and boiled them, resulting in a rich-tasting brown liquid which kept him sustained for days. As this story reached Mecca, Omar was allowed to return and made a saint for discovering this “miracle drug”.

Other legends tell a story of a man who discovered birds with an unusual amount of vitality after feeding on berries, and upon tasting the berries, received the same energised feeling.

The birth of coffee

Although the first discoveries of coffee may be a little murky, we do know that the first bit of credible evidence of coffee consumption was in the late 15th century, when coffee was imported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Sufis would drink coffee to help concentration, helping them to achieve a sort of spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God. It also helped them to stay alert during their nighttime prayers.

By the 16th century, the buzz around coffee had begun to spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, with coffee houses opening far and wide. In fact, coffee was imported from the Yemini port called Mocha – it’s probably no coincidence that this name still lives strong to this day.

Coffee’s pilgrimage to Europe

This is where the history of coffee darkens. Coffee was first introduced to Europe on the island of Malta – where Turkish Muslim slaves had been imprisoned in 1565 after the Ottoman Empire failed to expand their Empire in the Great Siege of Malta. In captivity, the Turkish slaves would make this beverage in exchange for money, resulting in a demand for coffee shops to be opened across Malta.

coffee beans in hand and coffee beans in bucket

Venetian merchants also played a role in the introduction of coffee to the European mainland, although it was an expensive commodity and available only to the wealthiest Venetians. It wasn’t until 1645 that a Venetian coffee house became the first on the European mainland, although coffee establishments had already become fairly common in Malta and the Ottoman Empire.

Eventually, the coffee bean made its way into England through trade, along with many other commodities such as tea and spices. By 1675 there were over 3,000 coffee houses in England, and during the Enlightenment these coffee houses became places of deep religious and political discussions.

What are the different types of coffee beans?

Just as cocoa beans come from a whole variety of cacao trees, the coffee bean has a similarly wide-ranging heritage. We’ve explored the profile of the four most common types of coffee bean so that you can choose the right type of coffee for the perfect brew to enjoy on International Coffee Day:

Arabica (Coffea arabica)

This is the most popular type of coffee bean, accounting for over 60% of the world’s coffee production. As it is easily influenced by its environment and is susceptible to disease, it must be farmed with extra care. Arabica beans have a multi-layered flavour and a strong aroma, and work particularly well with chocolate. That’s why the house coffee that we serve in our cafés and in our stores is 100% Arabica beans, so you can enjoy the perfect coffee and chocolate pairing.

In fact, we think the punchy flavours of the Arabica bean go so well with cocoa that we’ve used it in our Coffee Chocolate selection. We use dark to replicate the bold tastes of an espresso, milk to mirror the mellowness of a macchiato, and white chocolate to capture the light tastes of a creamy latte.

coffee in a cup next to coffee beans and ground coffee

Robusta (Coffea caniphora)

Coming second in popularity, the Robusta bean is much more tolerant against disease than its popular cousin. Robusta coffee has a full-bodied flavour, meaning that you can add milk and sugar without diminishing the nuanced notes of this bean.

Liberica (Coffea liberica)

A much rarer form of coffee bean, the Liberica breed is the only coffee bean in the world which has an irregular shape – typically, coffee beans are symmetrical. Their unique aroma gives off tastes of floral and fruity notes, and it has a distinctive smoky taste.

Excelsa (Coffea excelsa or Coffea liberica var. dewevrei)

Counting for only 7% of the world’s coffee consumption, Excelsa coffee is normally used in blends to add an extra boost of flavour. Its flavour profile is tart and fruity, whilst also having smoky notes running through.

coffee beans next to ground coffee and coffee with milk

How do you make coffee?

For you and I, making coffee can be as simple as putting a few spoonfuls of ground coffee in a cafetière – even the more fancy machines can deliver a hot mug of coffee to you within a few minutes. However, the process of making the coffee bean suitable for drinking isn’t as simple as picking a few beans off a tree – time and care is needed to create a coffee bean worthy for consumption:

Step 1 – Harvesting

It takes around six years for a coffee tree to produce its fruit – the beans – which is ready for harvesting. On average, a coffee tree can last between 20-25 years, yielding roughly 2000 beans a year.

Step 2 – Processing

This process can take up to two weeks – dry processing is where the beans are dried in the sun before the pulp, parchment (a naturally occurring papery substance) and dried skin is removed. This is a fairly laborious process: the beans must be regularly raked to prevent mildew.

Another process that is used is wet processing – the beans are put in water and the ones which float to the top are marked as defective and removed. After this they are pressed by a machine and the remaining pulp is removed, after which the beans are left to dry, leaving between 10-12% of moisture content.

Step 3 – Hulling and polishing

Machines remove the parchment layer from the wet processed coffee beans, and the dry process requires the entire dried husk to be removed. A polishing machine is then used to remove any leftover residue which remains after hulling.

Step 4 – Roasting

The beans are then roasted at around 290℃, and the beans have to be continuously moved to prevent them from burning. During the roasting process, the coffee beans begin to brown and their natural oils start to emerge, giving the beans their characteristic aroma.

The hotter the temperature, the more intense the coffee flavour gets, which is why we have light, dark and medium roast coffees. Once they are removed from the roaster they are quickly cooled. The beans are then tasted and eventually exported, ready to be ground and turned into a delicious mug of coffee!

coffee beans in a coffee machine

How to enjoy International Coffee Day

International Coffee Day is all about raising awareness about where your coffee comes from and focuses on fair trade practices. This year, why not do some research of your own into the coffee that you typically drink: if you want to make sure your coffee is ethically sourced then look out for the Fairtrade symbol on the packaging of your coffee, or do some research into the company that sources the beans.

We believe that chocolate and coffee is a natural pairing – in fact, we’ve put together a guide covering what type of coffee works well with different flavours of chocolate. We’ve committed ourselves to a programme of Engaged Ethics, which means we give a fair working wage to our cocoa farmers, and also give back to the communities that produce our cacao beans for us.

Our Coffee Chocolate goes perfectly with any type of coffee, whether it’s a short and strong espresso, or creamy cappuccino. Or, if you find yourself with a sudden caffeine craving when you’re out and about, why not stash a few of our chocolates in your bag to pop one in your mouth when you’re on the go.

This year, why not sample a new type of coffee bean for International Coffee day? For an extra indulgent treat, combine a cup of your favourite blend with hot chocolate for a decadent mocha – The Velvetiser lets you create barista-style hot chocolates at home.

Hotel Chocolat's the velvetiser for hot chocolate and mocha

No matter what type of coffee you love best, make sure you treat yourself to a few mugs of it on International Coffee Days – why not visit one of our cafés for the perfect chocolate and coffee pairing?