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September 29: International Coffee Day

September 29, 2013

images“International Coffee Day,” a promotional event for the coffee industry that activists have used to raise consciousness about coffee growers and fair trade, has been observed on this date since at least 2005 in the United States, Canada, England, Ethiopia, Malaysia, and Sweden. (Other countries observe the day on other dates, including Japan, which inaugurated its October 1st observance in 1983.) While it was Ethiopians who first discovered the stimulative effect of the coffee bean some 2,100 years ago, and Sufi Muslims in Yemen who first brewed the beans as a hot beverage, Jewish involvement in the coffee industry hails back to a Sephardic Jew who opened one of Europe’s first coffeehouse in Livorno, Italy in 1632, and “Jacob the Jew,” a Lebanese who founded the first English coffeehouse in Oxford a few years later. (The very first coffeehouse in the world opened in Constantinople around 1550.) In America, Savarin, Martinson’s, and Chock Full o’ Nuts were all Jewish-owned popular brands, and Joseph Jacobs, the head of one of New York’s first Jewish advertising agencies, campaigned to establish the kosher-for-Passover status of General Foods’ Maxwell House coffee and oversaw the creation of the Maxwell House haggadah, which has been printed in fifty million copies since the early 1930s. In the 1990s, Howard Schultz turned Starbucks, which he had acquired from founders Zev Siegl and his partners in 1987, into an international powerhouse corporation. Egyptian pundits have claimed that the woman in the Starbucks logo is Queen Esther, and the company has been targeted by boycott Israel forces for allegedly giving money to Israel. (The company actually closed its six poorly preforming Israeli stores in 2003, and does a thriving business in the Arab and Muslim worlds.)

“Coffeehouses became egalitarian meeting places where people exchanged ideas. The American and French revolutions were planned in coffeehouses, Lloyds of London originated in Lloyds Coffeehouses, Bach and Beethoven’s creative juices were fired by coffee.”—Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

JEWDAYO ROCKS! Alex Skolnick, guitarist who has gone from metal and thrasher rock to jazz and is the founder of Planetary Coalition, a world music and progress movement, was born in Berkeley on this date in 1968. To see his video about Planetary Coalition, look below.