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As the name suggests, International Coffee Day marks a date when the international community celebrates coffee as a beverage and observes its global presence. It started as a universal celebration with a little to spike to global coffee sales in 2014 and has since only gained in popularity. But there is more than just coffee to it – the commodity’s supply chain suffers from longstanding economic ills and International Coffee Day serves as one reminder of this.

You can always get involved with the relevant organizations to support the initiatives that try to remedy this, or you can simply sip your favorite coffee beverage to keep the spirits high for the joyous occasion International Coffee Day is, but with better awareness of where your coffee came from.

How International Coffee Day began

International Coffee Day was officially introduced by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) in 2014 in Milan, Italy. It was determined to be celebrated on October 1st. At that point in time, it certainly wasn’t a new idea. Many countries around the world have had their own official national coffee days. The dates when these are celebrated vary considerably and are often connected to important national holidays. 

For example, Indonesia’s National Coffee Day is on the same date as its Independence Day holiday. Even way back then in the 1980s, Japan held official coffee celebrations. This just goes to show that coffee has been celebrated for a long time all around the globe, quite far from Europe or the United States.

Nonetheless, International Coffee Day as launched by the ICO is the only (or at least first) coffee festivity of its kind that is global in its reach and has the backing of such a powerful player on the international political stage as is the United Nations (UN), which oversees the ICO. The ICO is now even gathering additional support from other UN bodies, including a partnership effort with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Green Commodity Programme it runs.

Doing so has one important consequence – many coffee associations around the world join into the club to reap the benefits of membership. Along the way, they further promote International Coffee Day to help highlight the important messages the ICO and the UN try to convey regarding coffee production and consumption.

What’s in it for coffee

International Coffee Day is not only celebrated by diehard coffee fans. In fact, it is mostly recognized by those not as concerned with the consumption of the beverage as the production of the raw commodity itself. The intention is to show how diverse and quality-driven the coffee ecosystem strives to be. But it is also meant to highlight coffee’s economic dimensions and its impact on producers’ livelihoods.

The thing is – coffee beans don’t magically appear out of thin air. Where the climate allows, someone has to plant the crop, mind it, harvest it, and sell it to a local merchant. The merchant then resells it en masse to international buyers, propelling the supply chain that eventually brings the beans to a roaster and, finally, consumers. The beans go through more hands than most would imagine. And since we can comfortably claim that coffee is quite a popular beverage, the scale of this process has serious economic consequences. 

Consider this: the global coffee market is valued at $102 billion. And it is projected to grow further at a rate of 6.2% annually. As a comparison, the global toothpaste market is estimated to be only $18 billion. This means people buy roughly 5.8x more worth of coffee than toothpaste.

Traditionally, although coffee has always been a strong commodity that’s rarely short of demand, unfortunately not everyone gets a fair share of the pie. In fact, the farmers and growers with whom the supply chain begins get the absolute minimum. And this is one of the issues the UN and the ICO are trying to make the world a little bit more aware of. International Coffee Day is the perfect occasion to do just that. As the ICO writes on its website, the day serves as…

…an opportunity for coffee lovers to share their love of the beverage and support the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the aromatic crop.

International Coffee Organization

Hence the advent of numerous “Fair Trade” and “Direct Trade” initiatives. And hence the birth of the International Coffee Council, an ICO task force that focuses on sustainability in the coffee industry. Last year, the ICO released its flagship Coffee Development Report 2020, a gold mine for up-to-date information, interesting statistics and much more.

Want to give back during International Coffee Day?

You can actually get involved in quite a few activities with the ICO regarding the International Coffee Day and the efforts to highlight the global significance of the crop. You can simply start by signing the coffee pledge, a petition that hopes to “give consumers a voice and help us to influence those who can effect positive change for coffee farmers around the world…”

The ICO even has a public Trello board where you can post up your ideas to be considered by the ICO staff. The description says:

This International Coffee Day we are launching a programme to support the next generation of young women and men in coffee, bringing their innovative ideas to life to benefit the whole coffee community and to support the recovery from the covid-19 pandemic, building a more prosperous future for the sector.

International Coffee Organization

If none of these are for you, you can always get involved by going to your local coffee shop and enjoying a cup of fresh joe, ideally on October 1st!

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