Monday is National Coffee Day, a time for celebration of the sanctity of a good cup of Joe — and free or discounted coffee at merchants — that has been a tradition since ... well, four to five years ago, depending on who you're asking.
"Dunkin' Donuts has celebrated National Coffee Day with national programs since 2010," said Michelle King, senior director of global public relations at Dunkin' Brands Group. "While the origins of National Coffee Day are unknown, Sept. 29 is widely recognized as a day to honor coffee."
Scratch the surface with a quick Googling and it quickly becomes clear that the exact origins of National Coffee Day are as opaque as the cup of dark roast coffee some Dunkin' Donuts stores will be giving away on Monday: There are numerous references to a Japanese National Coffee Day in 1983, leading to claims that the term then began to percolate in the U.S., culminating in 2009 when the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans used the date to kick off the first New Orleans Coffee Festival.
Call the Southern Food and Beverage Museum however, and they deny any direct involvement.
"We don't know anything about the origins [of National Coffee Day]," said Kelsey Parris, operations manager at the museum. "There was an organization that tried to put on a coffee festival. They had a kickoff event at our museum, but that was very short-lived, and I don't think we can take credit for that. I don't know if they are even still around."
There is a Facebook page for the New Orleans Coffee Festival, but it doesn't appear to have been updated since 2010. For now, at least, the origin story on National Coffee Day will remain as nebulous as the clouds in your coffee.
There are, however, some rather concrete deals to be had.
At Furnace Hills Coffee Roasters in Westminster, coffee beans are available at 25 percent off Monday. The store has offered some kind of deal on National Coffee Day for the past few years since learning about it through media coverage, according to owner David Baldwin.
In Manchester, at The Java Vault Cafe, all coffee drinks except frappes will be 50 percent off, according to owner Ed Wun. He said he had just learned about the event recently.
"If I had known, we could have partnered with [other coffee shops]," he said. "I am going to call my roaster."
On the fast food side of things, a corporate communication states that all McDonald's restaurants have been offering free coffee each morning since Sept. 16, with Monday being the last chance for one of these free cups of Joe.
Participating Dunkin' Donuts stores will be giving away the aforementioned medium-sized cup of dark roast coffee, and the Eldersburg, Hampstead and Taneytown locations confirmed participation, while the Westminster location wasn't sure by 5 p.m. Friday.
As for Starbucks, an unnamed corporate spokesperson said that a free tasting of Starbucks Anniversary Blend would be on offer at some stores, but staff at the location on Md. 140 in Westminster and the location in Sykesville did not know of any such deal.
It could be that National Coffee Day needs a bit of a pick-me-up itself, and customers might just pop the question at their favorite purveyor of toasted bean on Monday to get the ball rolling for next year.