Celebrating International Coffee Day

As many of you know, National Coffee Day took place yesterday, September 29. However, for those who might have missed it or simply want another holiday to observe, tomorrow October 1 is International Coffee Day. That means more celebrations and caffeine to come! So how did this holiday come to be? And why is it important to all us coffee-lovers?

The origin of it all is a little uncertain, but supposedly the coffee-centered holiday began with an annual coffee bean-themed event organized by the All Japan Coffee Association in 1983. From there caffeinated celebrations popped up around the world, with the United States choosing to celebrate National Coffee Day as early as 2005. While the U.S. shares our date of September 29 with over a dozen others, different countries celebrate their own National Coffee Days on different days of the year. For instance, Indonesia celebrates theirs on August 17, which is also their Independence Day. However, despite different countries having their own national celebrations, you cannot deny that coffee, the second highest traded commodity in the world, is essentially international.

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Enjoying a pour-over of Burundian coffee at Colony Club

While the name “International Coffee Day” was first introduced in 2009 by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in Louisiana (represent!), the first official International Coffee Day was observed just last year on October 1, 2015. This date was agreed upon by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the main intergovernmental organization for coffee. Set up under the United Nations in 1963, the member governments of the ICO who work to tackle the challenges facing the global coffee sector represent 98% of world coffee production and 83% of world coffee consumption. Encouraged by the idea of having a single day where people around the world – farmers, traders, roasters, and consumers alike – could all celebrate together, the ICO with the support of numerous other coffee associations designated an official International Coffee Day to take place on October 1 of every year.

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Coffee is believed to have originated in Ethiopia, and it holds steady as the country’s #1 export. Here is a bag of Ethiopian coffee used during an event at The Coffee Bar.

While International Coffee Day gives you another excuse to enjoy your favorite cup of java (not that you need one), it is also intended as a reminder of where your coffee comes from. It’s a global celebration of coffee’s journey from the farm to your favorite local coffee shop. The holiday provides the opportunity to honor those who grow, harvest, and process the coffee that we drink, to raise awareness of the hardships many coffee growers face, and to promote fair trade practices.

Tomorrow, people from around the globe will join together in celebrating the second annual International Coffee Day, acknowledging the international effort it took to get our delicious coffee from crop to cup. So maybe tomorrow ask your barista where the espresso beans used to make your latte come from. Or try coffee from a different region than you’re used to. Or research the practices your local coffee roasters use to source their beans. However you choose to observe the holiday, I hope you enjoy!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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Travel Tuesday – Boston and Beyond

Travel Tuesday – Boston and Beyond

With fall finally sweeping in, I had an opportunity to get up north and get a sneak peek at the changing leaves and cool crisp mornings. After closing out the New York Coffee Festival we made our way across Long Island, up to Connecticut, to Boston, followed by a few days in New Hampshire.

Taking the ferry over the Long Island Sound made for an official-feeling transition into New England. Our first destination was Boston, and my goal of course was to find a good great cup of coffee. Armed with a small list of recommendations we set out in one of the oldest cities in America.

We stayed by Copley Square, next to a beautiful public library that I wanted to spend hours writing in. Giant windows great for people watching, and it had a café next to their NPR recording studio. Copley square itself is full of art history, being named after an artist (John Singleton Copley) and it once was named Art Square, it is also the finish of the Boston Marathon (the world’s oldest continuously running marathon). It has this gorgeous subway headhouse– although in Boston it’s called the “T” and it has the oldest subway tunnel in the country. The square also hosts a Farmer’s Market on Fridays!

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Farmers Market at Copley Square
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“T” Headhouse – Copley Square
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Boston Marathon Finish Line

We caught some of the sunset over Boston Common and I really could have spent hours in the park (hours that would have been better if I had my memory card in my camera……………………….. the iPhone doesn’t do sunsets justice).

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We did what tourists do, and picked up a guide book about the Freedom Trail. Luckily for me, the start of it coincides with the location of one of the Thinking Cup coffee shops. They serve Stumptown Coffee and are the proud owners of a Latte Art Competition Trophy, and they have some great baked goods to boot.

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View from the parkbench right outside Thinking Cup Coffee

Part of our walk took us to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and although crowded and touristy, it was one of my favorite parts of Boston. Cobblestones, shops and eateries, and these little activity areas throughout (for both kids and adults). A few opportunities for coffee though I didn’t partake as I was on the hunt for specialty coffee only 😉

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Inside a Market Hall at Faneuil Square

The Freedom Trail concludes on Bunker Hill and though a bit out of the way, it boasts some beautiful views. My three-year old trucked it to the top of the obelisk (nearly 300 stairs)!

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NOT the Washington Monument 

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We probably picked the best time of year to be in Boston as we enjoyed outdoor seating for dinner nightly, and overall amazing walking weather. My other favorite part of the city was Newbury street – lots of restaurants and shops in gorgeous brick buildings. Here we found Pavement Coffee house, a bagel bakery and specialty coffee shop that serves Counter Culture coffee.

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Driving out of town through Cambridge we spotted half a dozen more coffee shops that we’re definitely coming back for! We had the same experience once we made it up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. If we had more time we would have wandered down the streets of this cute New England town and had the opportunity to sample a lot more coffee. Instead we spent our morning eating fresh lobster and wondering what people do for a living in Kittery, Maine, to live in gorgeous coastal homes and own cute but mighty sailboats for weekend adventures.

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We rounded out our trip in Exeter, New Hampshire, and I wanted to include a final note about how great it was to stay in the historic Exeter Inn. I’m old school and I love hotels where at night the bar is bustling and in the morning you can read the paper in the lobby and have 10 different conversations with people within half an hour. While drinking complimentary coffee of course.

Where is autumn taking you this year?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

New York Coffee Festival

Last weekend I (Daniëlle) was in the Big Apple for the New York Coffee Festival that I was covering for Perfect Daily Grind (you can read the article about some great coffee conversations I had here)! Unfortunately Lauren couldn’t make it but I think I convinced her that next year she can’t miss it. Or better, maybe DC can host a festival!!

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There were over 70 vendors, and there was also a latte art station, a competition corner, a lab for lectures/workshops, a coffee art gallery, and a stage for live music surrounded by couches and small trees.

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The folks from Swing’s Coffee and Ceremony Coffee were up there for part of the festival – DC Coffee representing! I was busy tweeting, instagramming (IG Stories), periscoping (my first time!), photographing, and interviewing, but of course did manage to take note of what District of Coffee may be interested in.

One of the coolest things was the Coffee Art section and I was disappointed I didn’t have an opportunity to ask more questions about it. The art was either about coffee or made with coffee and coffee accessories and it was so intriguing! We’ve seen some cool coffee art at The Wydown and La Mano – what are some other places in the District where we can see art based on coffee?

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I loved meeting up with the folks from Prana Chai. Hello Autumn! I never considered this but their blended spices that are lightly coated in honey go best with nut and soy milks because the fat content in milk masks some of the flavors of the spices. I’m not sure I can ever enjoy chai concentrate again after having tasted their artisanal developed Masala Chai blend.

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Virgin chocolate? We’ve got some great specialty chocolate in DC (Macaw and Undone come to mind) and I loved hearing more about Raaka virgin chocolate from Brooklyn. They don’t roast the beans! I suppose I don’t know anything about the process of chocolate making so perhaps that’s not revolutionary but it sure looked (and tasted) fascinating!

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Although the 69th Regiment Armory was a great venue, it was pretty hot and crowded. Luckily it was just a block away from Madison Square Park and I loved my 45 minute reprieve there. People in DC seem enamored by Shake Shack – I got a burger from their original location and the people watching in the park was fantastic! I love New York parks.

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Back at the Armory I chatted with the folks at Hatch coffee (I had interviewed them for a Perfect Daily Grind piece a few months ago) and tasted their cold brew – I’ve mentioned on the blog before I am not a fan of cold brew but this was crisp and light. And they have a great story about working with farmers to improve the lives of everyone involved in their process. They’re coming to the States first quarter of next year!

Any of you own a Chemex? If not, lucky you for waiting!  They’re now offering personalization through etched glass, the wood grip, the bead around the leather band, and different colored bands. The people working the manual pour overs for Chemex were from the NYU coffee club – have you heard of such a thing? I recently tweeted that I was geeking out about UC Davis and their coffee program hitting the news – Did I miss something about colleges and specialty coffee? Any DC students in a coffee club? I’m seeing a future blog topic here…

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It’s hard to write about festivals for people who weren’t there, and here at District of Coffee we’re not into reviews (I will say… a bit contradictory… Lauren and I are excited about putting together a holiday gift list and there were a few other things I saw at the festival that I’m definitely going to want to talk about at some point.. More to come in a few months)! I’ll sign off with some photos of the trip and by planting the seed that it would be amazing for the DC coffee scene to band together for a festival. Have any of you been to a coffee fest or SCAA expo? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

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Pumpkin Spice Latte: Love it or Leave it?

Fall is right around the corner, and you know what that means… the return of pumpkin spice lattes! Now, I’ve never been a fan of the PSL. Not because I’m a coffee purist, and not because I’m not “basic” (I kind of am), but because I’m just not a fan of the flavor. However, I know people who rejoice in the return of the PSL like they would at the return of the Messiah.

Baffled by the extreme passion in which many embrace this fall beverage, I posed the question to my Instagram following- Pumpkin Spice Latte: love it or leave it? I was honestly surprised by the number who responded with the latter. Below are some of the responses I received:

“It’s a fun dessert drink […] I love pumpkin pie so the idea of drinking it seems fun!” -@micherre_mo

“I’ve always thought that they were an over sweet gimmick, but I’ve seen people who are in the industry and who have great palettes swoon over these, especially the ones from Starbucks.” – @foodnomad

“Leave it – super funky and a waste of good coffee.” -@littleman_and_tidbit

“If you want dessert – love it. If you want coffee – leave it. Personally I’d rather get my pumpkin calories from pumpkin pie.” -@maddtowne

“Already tired of it.” -@bhk556

“Leave it – usually the pumpkin tastes artificial to me and doesn’t blend well…” -@skoobie_

“I prefer my coffee without any bells and whistles.” -@lshap18

“Love it! Always get an extra shot of espresso to make it more coffee like.” -@morgschatz

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Grace Street Coffee is preparing to put their spin on the fall beverage

I was delighted to see the following exchange in my comments from Grace Street’s General Manager Angel and Head Barista Sam:

“I am all for doing it right. Like beers many of them are a let down. They taste like nutmeg and cinnamon. If done with natural ingredients and paired with a bean that compliments the syrup it can turn out right. @anglinsam has been working on a simple syrup for @gracestreetcoffee that we will roll out next week! Tested it today and it was 💸💸💸” -@cabrera79

“@cabrera79 agreed. Pumpkin spice is a cultural thing now, if we can take something people expect as a seasonal drink, make it better using natural ingredients instead of outrageous amounts of high fructose corn syrup, and pair it with exceptional coffees in the hands of skilled baristas, who loses? The haters, that’s who!” -@anglinsam

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Spooky sign as you walk in Tynan Coffee & Tea

In addition to getting your fix at Grace Street starting next week, you can also indulge in your favorite caffeinated pumpkin drinks at Tynan, Ebenezers, Saxbys, Starbucks, Peet’s, and Dunkin Donuts. Let me know if I’ve left your favorite coffee shop out so other PSL-addicts can be in the know!

Though I personally don’t dig the pumpkin spice latte,  I do rejoice in the excitement of autumn’s arrival. I am pumped for the changing colors of the leaves, the return of boot weather, and the feeling of cradling a cup of hot coffee between my chilly hands.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

P.S.- For a little laugh, check out this Buzzfeed video of people trying PSLs for the first time. #sobasic