Forget Christmas, your birthday, Easter, Halloween of even the summer equinox, October first is officially the new best day of the year and at Rail Discoveries' headquarters we're a hive of preparation.
The percolator's brewing, the beans are being ground and the milk is ready to be steamed, yes folks this can only mean one thing - international coffee day is very almost upon us. This ubiquitous drinks' popularity is riding high within a nation whose mugs were once solely reserved for tea, and over the past ten years, figures released by the British Coffee Association reveal that the UK's consumption of coffee has risen from 70 million cups per day to 95 million.
"In the last decade we've gone from a country of tea sippers who enjoy the occasional instant coffee, to a nation of seasoned coffee connoisseurs exploring a large variety of roast and ground blends," said Chris Stemman, Executive Director of the BCA.
"Coffee consumption has boomed across the UK and with so many choices on offer, both at home and on the high street, this increase is not surprising."
But let's forget about the cosy comforts of your local independent, where the barista knows your order to the nearest decimal point (extra hot, two shot, skinny latte with vanilla syrup anyone?) and venture to destinations unknown, where the term 'coffee' may be familiar, but the end product will be like nothing you've ever tasted before. Welcome to our countdown of some of the world's most unusual coffees.
In a country where portable refrigeration can be a bit of a challenge, residents have come up with an ingenious, and delicious, alternative to using fresh milk in their coffee; sweetened condensed milk. Something well known to Brits, for whom it's a staple of many nursery-style puddings, it can last for years in unopened, unchilled cans making it the perfect go to for those who want something slightly saccharine to temper Vietnam's notoriously strong, course, dark roast coffee beans.
Known for having some fairly...unique gastronomic experiences, Finland wasn't going to let us down when it came to its coffee habits. Kaffeost literally translates to coffee cheese, which is exactly what this drink delivers. Originating from Kainuu in the east of the country, Kaffeost is made by taking pieces of thickly cut juustoleipä (an unusual and squeaky cheese made from the rich milk of cows who've recently calved) which is then curdled then set into a disc shape before being baked, grilled or flambéed to give it its distinctive brown colour, and directly pouring espresso over the segments. Patience is then required while the cheese soaks up the delicate flavours of the hot liquid before you can fish each chunk out with a spoon, an experience aficionados liken to a tiramisu-style dessert.
Sweden & Norway
Staying in Scandinavia, where they seem to enjoy adding all sorts of dairy products to their morning cup of joe, we can sample Scandinavian egg coffee. To recreate this particular iteration at home, all you need to do is mix a raw egg with approximately 200ml of cold water and your chosen coffee grounds. Next just add this concoction to a saucepan of boiling water (400mls or so) and let it simmer for three-five minutes. Remove from the heat and top up with more cold water before leaving to settle for a couple of minutes. Then skim the coffee to remove any unpalatable particles that may have formed, sieve into your favourite mug and ta-da! It may sound a little less than appetising, but there's great coffee method (or at least theory) behind the madness. Apparently as the egg whites break down in the boiling water, they release specific proteins that bind to bitter impurities in the grounds themselves, resulting in an appealing amber-coloured drink with a silky texture and mellow taste.
Heading east, things get a little more fragrant thanks to the prevalence of the exotic herbs and spices that flourish in hot climates. And in Saudi Arabia they go all out when it comes to making qahwa (the Arabic term for coffee), adding boisterous perfumed seasonings such as crushed cardamom pods, cloves, extravagant saffron and even elegant rosewater. All these elements are brewed together along with green coffee beans (which aren't as powerful and punchy as their browner, darker cousins) for a completely special delicacy. While it's a well-known drink across the country, it makes most of its appearances at family gatherings and parties, where tradition dictates each cup should be served by the youngest guest as a sign of respect to their elders, and being the first in receipt of your drink is a real honour. Served alongside sweet dates it makes for a truly unusual coffee experience.
From spices to alcohol, we all have our favourite additions for coffee so this international coffee day, we say go wild, take some inspiration from different global communities and try something new. Then if it's disgusting, pour it away and crack out the Nescafe. Happy coffee drinking, one and all!