Free coffee? The java will be flowing at the Free Speech Movement Café’s 20th anniversary bonanza.

Patrons ordering at FSM cafe
The Free Speech Movement Café inside Moffitt Library will celebrate its 20th anniversary Jan. 24 by giving away coffee and other goodies. (Photo by Cade Johnson for the UC Berkeley Library)

“Free coffee.” 

As anyone who has attended a so-early-it’s-still-dark-out class or work function can certainly attest, there are scarcely two words in the English language that perk up a morning crowd more than those.

A fitting way to end the first week of classes, UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement Café, at Moffitt Library, will be slinging free java (and other goodies) on Friday, Jan. 24. Why? Well, on that date, the cafe — a tribute to activism at Berkeley — is turning 20.

What drinks will be free? And when can you grab a cup?

Here’s what you need to know about this glorious day. 

What should we expect on the 20th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement Café?

Festivities will include a giveaway of 20th anniversary T-shirts (from 8 a.m. to noon) and the chance to spin a wheel for prizes, including gift cards good at the Free Speech Movement Café, Press (outside of Moffitt’s fourth floor), Caffè Strada, Free House Restaurant, Café Zeb (at the law school), Café Think (at the business school), and the I-House Café (at the International House).

Then there’s the free coffee.

When can I get my free coffee?

From 8 a.m. until noon, the cafe will be serving coffee gratis, according to Daryl Ross, the cafe’s owner (and a Cal alum who graduated in 1985). The event is similar to last year’s 30th anniversary celebration at Caffè Strada, which Ross also runs.

What kind of coffee are we talking?

All coffee drinks (in all sizes) will be free. Yes, all — this includes drip coffee and all espresso-based drinks. So you’re in luck, whether you favor an Americano, mocha, latte, the house drip, or any of the cafe’s other coffee offerings. If you need a pick-me-up after the long winter break, a Spider (a coffee with a shot of espresso) might do the trick.

Why is this occasion important?

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Berkeley knows that it is the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, which gripped the campus in 1964. The Free Speech Movement Café, which opened in January of 2000, pays tribute to that legacy. Inside the cafe, the walls are embedded with memories of the movement and its de facto leader, Mario Savio.

As a Cal student in the ’80s, Ross made a film about Savio, lamenting the changes that had happened since the Free Speech Movement took hold just two decades earlier. (Mario’s son, Daniel, worked at the cafe for a time, Ross noted.)

“I am absolutely privileged to operate the cafe and be a part of the library and the legacy of Cal,” Ross said. “I am thrilled to … be a part of so many students’ lives at Cal, by exposing them to this great history and to keep them going during their studies.”

Elizabeth Dupuis — senior associate university librarian and director of many libraries on campus, including Moffitt — said the memory of the Free Speech Movement is as alive as ever.

“Berkeley student activism and engagement with meaningful issues of our times — then free speech, now social justice — continues to be a hallmark of our campus,” she said. “The Library proudly serves as home to the FSM Café as a reminder of the positive impact that individuals and groups can have in shaping our world.”

Plus, she said, “it’s a great place to hang out and sense the spirit of campus.”