Photo by Jason Villanueva from Pexels

We owe a debt of gratitude to an animal herder named Kaldi for the discovery of coffee in the Kaffa region in Ethiopia. According to the story, he observed that his goats were rejuvenated after eating the red beans from the coffee plants on the plateau over a thousand years ago. Since that time, Ethiopia has become one the of the top exporters and producers of Arabica coffee worldwide.

From Angola to Zambia, and Bulgaria to Tunisia, the members of the International Coffee Organization (ICO) bring together exporting and importing Governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through global cooperation. The ICO’s member governments represent 97% of world coffee production and 67% of the globe’s consumption. As of January 4, 2021, there were 49 member countries.

Coffee over conversation is an intercultural relationship builder worldwide; and it isn’t just limited to the coffee belt. Exporting countries are proud of their coffee products. When offered or receiving a coffee drink or gift, be sure to show enthusiasm. Remember, when dining with global counterparts, if they ask “would you like coffee?” the response is “yes” since they may wait to start business discussions until coffee is served after the meal. Once that heavenly coffee is poured, the negotiations commence.

So when enjoying coffee, conversations, and cultural connections, keep these international protocol concepts in mind:

  • Global hospitality symbols include coffee and tea
  • Hosts and hostesses expect you to accept an offer of coffee or tea  
  • Coffee offers display a desire to start a conversation
  • Declining coffee numerous times signals that the business relationship is insignificant
  • Don’t like coffee? Accept the offer, allow the cup to cool without drinking the liquid
  • Sugar is added before dairy since it dissolves quickly in hot liquids
  • Politely asking for decaffeinated is appropriate
  • Requesting latte or macchiato when it hasn’t been offered is a faux pas
  • Turning a coffee cup upside down in the saucer is a banquet staff responsibility
  • Drink cold brew, iced, or bottled coffee from a drinking glass or cup

Where does your favorite coffee originate? In honor of International Coffee Day, spend a moment to relax, sip a cup of coffee, and daydream. You deserve it.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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