June 14, 2016

Going on a COFFEE Origin Trip? 10 Things You Need to Pack


So you’ve decided to take an origin coffee trip. You’ve done your research, made all the right connections, and booked your flights. Now all you need to do is pack – but if you thought this was going to be the easy part, you’re wrong.

You want to travel light, but not too light. Because while lugging around a heavy bag is a nuisance, not having enough waterproof clothing or forgetting your painkillers is worse.

Never fear, because we’ve spoken to three coffee professionals to find out what the essentials are. Read on to discover the ten things, not all of them tangible, that you absolutely can’t forget to add to your kit list.

Spanish Version: ¿Vas a un Viaje de Café a Origen? 10 Cosas que Necesitas Empacar

Danner Friedman. Natural drying bed at Coope Tarrazu, CR. Balzac Brothers and Rainforest Alliance Pictured

Remember, you don’t always get to know what happens next. Credit: Danner Friedman

The Coffee Pros

Samuel Coto is a Guatemalan coffee farmer, sourcer, and US importer for Third Wave Coffee USA. Danner Friedman is a Q-Grader who works in Specialty Coffee Sales for Balzac Brothers. And Ben Weiner is the man behind Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, direct trade exporters/importers with their own Nicaraguan farm, Finca Idealista.

Between the three of them, they have experience of visiting producers, of being producers, and of helping producers. And they’ve planned a lot of origin trips. Here are the ten items they wouldn’t want to forget.

1. Bug Repellant

You will, without a doubt, come into contact with bugs of all sorts during your trip. And it could well be that, since different bugs live in different countries, your body will react differently to the mosquitoes you encounter at origin than it would to the ones at home. You may even have an allergic reactions to some of them. So use a strong bug spray, preferably with a high concentration of DEET, to keep these little pests at bay.

2. Suitable Clothing

Bug repellant won’t cover everything – nor will it protect your from the weather. Make sure to bring lightweight, long-sleeved shirts; trousers; a hat; hiking shoes; and socks. And that’s for the good weather. Don’t  forget to also pack a full set of waterproofs, including tall boots that you’ve added an extra layer of protection to with waterproof spray. Do all this and you’ll be protected from bugs, sun, and rain – all of which you’re likely to find when you get closer to the equator.

cattle in costa rica

Don’t think you can wear a t-shirt just because it’s sunny and that’s what the locals wear. Credit: Danner Friedman

3. Medication and Health Products

Your body’s about to experience a lot of new things, and new foods, allergies, and different water standards can all wreck your trip. To keep most of the usual suspects at bay, bring hand sanitizer for cleanliness, ibuprofen for headaches, and nausea or travel sickness tablets. Speak to your doctor to see if they can prescribe you antibiotics for an upset stomach; if not, take the strongest over-the-counter tablets you can purchase. Then there’s any other medications you might normally use, especially for allergies. Finally, don’t forget your sunblock and some Band Aids.

4. A Good Camera

Splurge and bring something better than your phone for this trip. You’re going to want to take as many pictures – and videos – as possible, and in as high a quality as possible. Not only will they be a great memento, but they’ll also be useful as a marketing tool once you start roasting or distributing. Consider bringing a spare memory card, as well.

coffee farm scenery

Don’t miss beautiful captures like this. Take a camera. Credit: Aumakua/Jose Morales

5. Currency

You can count on the farm not taking your credit card, and ATMs are going to be scarce once you’ve left the city. What’s more, while you may still be able to use your own currency, the exchange rate’s going to be painful. Make sure you get the local currency before you head to more rural areas; it’s the smartest and most-pain free way to ensure you have the money you need.

6. Gifts

This is a kind way to show your appreciation and to build a strong relationship with the locals, although you should check up on the local customs before you purchase anything. In addition to googling this, ask others who have gone on similar trips about what they brought or saw a need for. Oh, and only bring gifts that are small and portable. It’s you who’s going to carry them, after all!

7. Altimeter

While not strictly necessary, both Friedman and Coto recommended bringing an altimeter. These gadgets are fun for checking and tracking your elevation at different points along your journey – and therefore helping you to understand why the coffee tastes the way it does.

coffee farm

Altimeters are a great tool to learn exactly where you are and how that changes the coffee. Credit: Aumakua/Jose Morales

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

8. Paper & Printouts

Sometimes the old ways are the best. And if you’re not convinced now, just wait until your phone has no battery. Bring paper printouts, a map, and a notepad – and don’t forget a pen! There may also be some other old-fashioned, non-digital tools you’ll want to pack, depending on your itinerary. Think ahead and consider what you’d normally rely on your phone for; from torches to phrasebooks, make sure you have an alternative at hand.

coffee farm touring trailer

Some places aren’t made for smart phones. Keep the tools you need handy and non-electronic. Credit: Danner Friedman

9. Backpack

Even if you travel with a suitcase, a versatile backpack is a must. Don’t undervalue the ability to toss a handful of clothes, some granola, and your AeroPress into a bag for a quick day trip. This way, you won’t have to haul around everything at once – and you’ll have your hands free to do things like look at coffee plants and take photos.

10. Questions

And finally, it’s absolutely essential to do your research before you get to your location. Having questions ready and prepared shows that you care, shows that you have a definite purpose, and ensures that you won’t forget anything important. Questions about sustainability, processing methods, and distribution will be key information as you continue the process of finding the right origin for you. And don’t be afraid to ask the same question at two different farms, because different producers will have different methods – often ones that have been passed down through the generations.

coffee farm scenery

Now get ready for sights like this. Credit: Aumakua/Jose Morales

Now you’re all ready to go – you’ve researched, you’ve packed (or at least made your packing list), and all you’ve got to do is board your flight. Although preparing for your origin trip may be stressful, know that this is going to be a trip of a lifetime. Have fun, and get ready to experience a new culture!

Want to go on an origin trip? Want to make the most of your time while having your costs subsidised? Join the SCAE’s trip to Indonesia at the end of July.

Edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.