June 7, 2016

Be Both Ambassador and Guest: 3 Ways to Exchange Value During an Origin Trip


The origin trip is the ultimate coffee pilgrimage. But how do you ensure you get the most out of this opportunity? How do you guarantee a valuable experience, not just for you, but for the coffee producers you’re visiting?

Worry not, because we’ve spoken to Ally Coffee, the sponsors of the Coffee Champion Origin Trip for the World and US Champs. They’ve shared with us their three tips for a superb visit.

SEE ALSO: Coffee Tourism: The Ultimate Origin Experience?

collecting coffee

Experience coffee like never before on an origin trip.

What is Ally’s Coffee Champion Origin Trip?

It’s one week, eight champions, and a lot of coffee farms. But let’s have a look at it in a little more detail.

The Coffee Champions:

US Barista Champion: Lem Butler – Counter Culture Coffee, Raleigh, NC
US Barista Runner-Up: Andrea Allen – Onyx Coffee Lab, Fayetteville, AR
US Brewers Cup Champion: Tod Goldsworthy – Klatch Coffee, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
US Brewers Cup Runner-Up: James Tooill – La Colombe, Philadelphia, PA
US Roaster Champion: Tony Querio – Spyhouse Coffee Roasting, Minneapolis, MN
US Roaster Runner-Up: Kyle Bellinger – Neat Coffee, Darien, CT
World Barista Champion: TBD
World Brewers Cup Champion: TBD

The Itinerary:

  1. Arrive in São Paulo, the world’s third-largest metropolis
  2. Visit the stunning coast of Vitória, Espírito Santo
  3. Meet with smallholder farmers in the blue mountains of Pedra Azul, still in Espírito Santo
  4. Stop off at Caparaó National Park, hikers’ heaven and home to Brazil’s third-largest mountain, on the border of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais
  5. Go on an educational tour of Minas Gerais’ estates and mills
  6. Take part in a coffee challenge day on Fazenda Primavera: farming meets latte art and competitive brewing!
  7. Taste coffee beers prepared in collaboration with a local brewery in charming Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon in English), Minas Gerais
  8. Return home infused with Brazilian coffee knowledge and enthusiasm

While we can’t all visit origin in victory lap style, this trip serves as a model for how travel can facilitate valuable exchange between members of the larger coffee community. When we visit somewhere, we don’t just go to collect experiences that we then take home – we also bring many valuable things to offer to our hosts.

Built into Ally’s trip are important opportunities for travelers to participate in meaningful exchanges of information, skills, perspective, and overall value with people working on the supply side. And you can build them into your own origin trip, too. Here’s how…

Coffee cherries

Get ready for spectacular sights on your origin trip. Credit: Fernando Rebêlo via Wikipedia

1. Defy Expectations

Let’s face the facts: North American and European travelers don’t always have the best reputation. But you can change that.

If the stereotype is that travelers from the US only speak English, and loudly, take the time to learn a few phrases in the local language. Listen closely when locals speak and try to respond in their own language, even if you feel overwhelmed or don’t immediately understand the conversation. Similarly, prove that Europeans visit Latin America for more than just the beach by putting on your boots and hiking up to a farm, then volunteering to stay and help sort cherries for a while.

Allow the trip to defy your expectations, too. For producers, there are just as many stereotypes to be dispelled – so come with an open mind and be ready to be surprised.

For example, Ally’s Coffee Champions Origin Trip will visit small family-run farms in Espírito Santo, but also large family owned agri-businesses estates in Minas Gerais. Different sized farms come with different associations, but at all the farms in this trip, the harvest is selected for peak quality and the coffee is grown with true love and care.

Visiting these poles of Brazil’s farm spectrum will show that farm size alone is not necessarily an accurate indicator of attention to detail; in fact, sometimes quality and efficiency are more aligned than we credit them with being.

coffee processing

Throw yourself into your origin trip.

2. Teach as Much as You Learn

Coffee professionals in consuming countries carry an incredible cache of expertise. You’re traveling to origin to learn – but make time to share as well. Explain what you know about the science of taste, the art of hospitality, and the magic of guiding consumers to fall in love with a beverage.

The coffee champions traveling with Ally to Brazil will teach local producers about the coffee/café cultures in their home cities by holding coffee-making seminars (and, of course, latte art throwdowns!) right in the middle of the fazenda. And even if you can’t hold your own seminar, there’s no excuse to not talk to the producers about how you brew their beans.

Origin travelers are equal parts educators and students, learning from experts about farming, processing, and milling and involving themselves hands-on to build experiential understanding. In addition to snapping pictures, make sure to listen, ask questions, observe, and take the time to pause and write notes. Travel is the ultimate coffee crash course and there are many nuances to learn about tropical agriculture; be open and realize how much you don’t know.

coffee worker

Get a new perspective on coffee production from your origin trip.

3. Be Both Ambassador and Guest

All travelers abroad become ambassadors for their home countries and cities. This is especially true of coffee travel, where visitors must be willing to answer questions about what it’s like to drink coffee in Amsterdam or why people in California get their coffee from drive-thrus.

But guests also travel abroad to experience more than just coffee. An invaluable aspect of spending time at origin is to be able to understand your host country as a whole, rather than just as a source of your favorite drink. The coffee champions will visit historic sites, parks, and meet with local food and beverage businesses collaborating with the coffee industry. Take the time to do the same on your origin trip; it will give you valuable insight.

sao paulo Brazil

Experience all that a country has to offer. Credit: Chensiyuan

Brewers Cup runner-up James Tooil notes, “I competed with a blend that included a coffee from Ally and Fazenda Primavera, and we’ve been roasting and serving this coffee at La Colombe for the past six months. I’m looking forward to visiting Fazenda Primavera and thanking Tavares family for all the delicious coffee.” Origin trips are the ultimate way to express gratitude face to face.

The more we travel the more we understand that living and working on the other side of the world is totally different but just as complicated and just as rewarding. Origin travel is about shaking up your coffee routine. Go for it and travel like a coffee champion.

Edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.