Friso visiting Mill in Costa Rica

Planning Your Origin Travel Successfully

Every coffee professional will need to plan origin trips at least once to understand the culture behind coffee production. But how to plan a successful origin trip? As green coffee importers, we regularly plan visits to origin countries and we always leave with a mini-mission. 

So let’s talk about mission planning to get the most out of your trip. Sourcing, relationship management, and content creation. Which Quest are you taking?

Scenario 1: Sourcing

Finding your best pick of the harvest starts with formulating a general idea of your needs. Don’t keep these ideas in your notepad, share them with your export partners and farmers in advance! This includes all sample-related requests, such as how many samples you aim to cup and the possibility to bring those samples home. Being clear about your needs will help you achieve your mission.

Time management is of vital importance for sourcing goals. Farm visits require you to make an itinerary together with your suppliers. Visiting one farm can take up a whole day and planning too many farm visits per trip can be exhausting. Moreover, connecting with farmers and cupping their coffee is part of your timeline as well. Often, the morning is the perfect moment to cup to not lose the rest of the day!

When to go?

The perfect moment to benefit more from sourcing trips is after the harvest season. Each coffee batch needs resting in the warehouse (too loose the greenish flavour), the coffee will harmonize the moisture content and the flavour will become more balanced. This is the ideal window to taste the coffee before the farmers and exporters distribute samples to other potential buyers (usually 2-3 weeks after the resting). Leave a message to your partner to prepare harvest samples early on!

The Coffee Quest visiting Brazil, 2021
The Coffee Quest visiting Fazenda El Dorado in Brazil, 2021

Scenario 2: Relationship management

Have you ever met your partners in coffee production? Why not take a trip to reinforce the partnerships? 

These trips are the best moment to develop a personal relationships, both with long-term and potential new suppliers. You listed out names, calculated the distance and accessibility, considered the time you spend with each producer. Step-by-step, all dots are connecting to prepare you final itinerary. 

Prior to departure, does your suitcase have space for presents? Take along with you some roasted coffee of other origins for local producers to try out. (However, always bring roasted beans, or your green coffee might end up at a custom check. Bringing green coffee back home is no problem!)

When to go?

You might consider going during the harvest season. However, you might risk stopping by during a farmers’ busiest day. Therefore, one solution is to communicate in advance with your producing partners to align to their availability.

Scenario 3: Content creation

This migh not be a sourcing emergency, but your business might need to refresh some content for the website and social media. Hence, it is time you set up a visit to your suppliers and collect content materials along the way. 

Determining (along with your Marketing crew) how you want the final content to be shared. Your dream content will tell you which equipment you need to carry in your luggage, including a camera, drones, mics, or physical notes. Are you planning to take a second partner as a photographer on the trip? This is the best way to appear on the content yourself!

When to go?

Visiting during harvest season is a must to capture ripe cherry harvesting and procesing on camera. You can combine relationship management with the mission of content creation.

The Coffee Quest Preparing for Uganda Trip
The Coffee Quest preparing for Uganda Trip 2021

Last tips

Above all, regardless of your mission, there are some important reminders for our trip planners:

  • Contact the exporter beforehand and be clear about your mission of the trip. Ask them for advice about airport pick-ups and local transport.
  • Check your visa/entry requirements are arranged in advance. They might be slower than expected during and after Covid.
  • Try to get your 3G/4G plan arranged upon arrival. Having internet access during the many hours in the car will be welcomed by your friends and family. Remember the time difference!
  • Don’t plan a tight schedule! Your experience will benefit better from a timeline with rooms of flexibility 
  • Double check & test all of your equipment: camera, drone,… (and batteries!)
Michiel Lampers and the local community in Ethiopia
Michiel Lampers and the local community in Ethiopia

Don't miss out the fun

This brings us to our final remark, don’t leave out the experience! Origin travel does not only mean coffee! By mixing in moments to experience culture you will get a better understanding about local life. Hence, do some tourist activities, try local food if you are up for it, and have fun! 

What’s your next destination?