National Coffee Day: The History & How to Celebrate at Work

Lincoln’s profile on the copper penny; Mt. Rushmore; Lady Liberty raising her torch. These emblems of American Democracy are known all over the world. But this month is National Coffee Day. If we’re being serious (and we should always be serious about coffee), it’s time for coffee to take a more visible role in the national spotlight.

Maybe the flip side of a penny should be a cup of coffee. Can’t we carve out a spot near Roosevelt for a granite mug of breakfast blend? At the very least, Lady Liberty deserves a coffee break, what with all that standing.

While we’re waiting for lawmakers to weigh in on all of the above, let’s learn more about the piping hot beverage that turns so many of us bleary-eyed stumblers into productive humans. (Tea drinkers, your big day is April 21st, and you get the whole month of June too if you love iced tea.)

Coffee is the unsung hero of culture, commerce and what would otherwise be awkward conversations. That’s why, if you’re in charge of providing this magical elixir to the masses, or at least to your team, you know the importance of getting it in front of people and getting it right.

So … who do we have to thank for its origin?

Coffee history… a bit of a mystery

According to the National Coffee Association (whose website is chock-full of interesting coffee facts), legend has it that the first cup of coffee came about when a goat herder in Ethiopia saw how perky his goats became after eating berries from a certain tree. He mentioned it to the village abbot who turned the berries into a beverage and voilà! Prayer reading productivity was up, and no one knew why the abbot started mumbling things like “latte,” “no whip” and “au lait.” (Ok, no.)

Word of the beverage spread to the Arabian Peninsula. Soon the berries and the beans inside were cultivated, and the drink was enjoyed in homes and public spaces throughout the Near East. European travelers got a whiff of the excitement, word continued to spread, and eventually the Dutch, French and British started cultivating coffee in their respective colonies throughout (Java) Indonesia, the Caribbean, and the Americas.

Blessing of the grounds

In the 1600s, Italians had doubts about the wholesomeness and holiness of the bitter beverage, so they asked the Pope to taste it and weigh in. He was a fan, so you can imagine how fast that hashtag trended. The Europeans started trading in their morning mugs of mead and beer for a cup of coffee and conversation. In the 1770s, coffee was the perfect substitute for American colonists when British taxes had soon-to-be patriots tossing their tea into Boston Harbor.

Dot … dot … dot to the future. Coffee cultivation becomes a global economic driver, and the legendary beverage becomes a mainstay for millions. (National Coffee Day is widely celebrated internationally, so technically it’s not all about us.)

The next thing we know, we’re all standing around the office coffee machine swigging that comforting cup of Joe like our brains depended on it. And, just as our coffee forbearers did, we swap stories, talk shop and build friendships right there in the modern-day public square, otherwise known as the breakroom.

To all the coffee-lovers out there (and to all those who love them, work with them, roll their eyes at them, and make sure they have a steady supply), we raise our travel mugs in your honor. Enjoy!

** Special thanks to the original goat-herder for working that visit with the abbot into his schedule.

How to celebrate National Coffee Day at work

Now, that we’ve had our little coffee history lesson, let’s dive into some ways you can spread some java holiday spirit and celebrate National Coffee Day with your team:

    • Find out what kind of coffee your co-worker likes and bring it to him or her out of the blue.
    • Try a new flavor of coffee for yourself or make a pot of something special to share with the office. Invite feedback!

  • Plan a company coffee meet-up where your department joins another department for an inter-office coffee break. Switch it up every month so your group can make the rounds.
  • Have a cookie or donut and coffee break in the afternoon to break up the day and celebrate with your team.
  • Let co-workers submit names for the office “coffeehouse,” then everyone votes. Put up a sign, give the winner a special mug, or even a chair of honor in the space.
  • “Mug Shots” – Take pictures of co-workers at their desks with their favorite coffee mugs, ask them how they take their coffee, why they like it so much, then post pictures in the breakroom.

We asked some of our people about their love of coffee too. Here’s what they had to say:

Dawn Huwe, Communications Director, Mid South Division:

Alec Morris, Senior HR Generalist:

Doug Finck, Senior Systems Analyst:

Meredith Amyot, Regional HR Manager:

Now that you’ve heard from our team about their love of coffee, get the facts on the benefits of this beloved drink in the workplace.

View our Why Coffee Matters Infographic

Other articles of interest:

5 Attempts to Ban Coffee in History

Studies about possible health benefits of coffee

6 Reasons Why You Should Improve Your Office Coffee

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