The coffee shop owner’s bucket list: visit the plantation that feeds your espresso machine
What’s your ideal holiday? A city break, exploring amazing architecture and culture? Two weeks as a beach bum, bronzing on a bleached blond beach? Perhaps it’s skiing or a luxury cruise. We bet very few coffee shop owners have visited the lands from which they source the rich coffee beans that feed their espresso machines and fuel their business. And yet it’s easier and more rewarding than it first sounds.
You’re probably buying ethically-sourced, sustainably grown coffee, Fairtrade approved to ensure that the coffee farmers and workers get a fair price for their hard work under a blazing sun. Making sure the money reaches the producers helps protect them against climate change and seasons with a poor harvest, which in turn protects the livelihoods of millions of businesses whose profitability also depends on a supply of good quality coffee blends. But have you ever considered visiting the farm where your preferred coffee is grown, harvested and dried?
Coffee grows in warm climates near the equator, in a belt that stretches around the world. Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Indonesia, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Central and South America all produce an array of coffees – either robusta or arabica – with distinctly different flavours due to their local climates and conditions. Now, if you were considering a long-haul holiday, some or all of those far-flung and exotic locations probably appeal.
So, why not combine business and pleasure?
Visiting a coffee plantation is the purest way to understand the origins and appreciate the efforts that have gone into a staple of billions of people’s lives, and which form the basis for your own business model. Coffee plantation trips also provide welcome additional input to the local economies in these typically poorer regions. Time your visit right, and you can help pick the coffee cherries. You’ll learn first-hand the history of coffee production, the intricacies of raising healthy coffee plants, taste coffee fresher than you’ve ever experienced, and even witness the entire extraction, drying and roasting processes. Best of all, you see the benefits your custom brings to whole communities.
Talk to your coffee supplier. Every coffee-based business should get to know the origins of its various blends, and your coffee suppliers are best placed to help you arrange a plantation trip. If that’s not feasible, there are many, many coffee plantations around the globe where you can enjoy an experience you’ll never forget.
And depending on where you visit, there’s so much more you’ll be able to tie in during your stay: safaris in Africa, snorkelling off the coast of Costa Rica, visit an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sumatra…the possibilities are endless. As a bonus, you’ll be able to claim certain elements as valid business expenses. If the coffee plantation tour is the primary function and focus of your trip, even the flights may be eligible as a business expense. For a foolproof understanding of which parts of foreign travel on business can be reclaimed, talk to a trusted accountant.
Whether or not it reduces your tax bill, it’s sure to increase your respect and love for the coffee bean and the way it is produced. So, when you next refill the hopper of your commercial espresso machine, and the intense aroma wafts over you, make your next job calling your coffee supplier to enquire about that plantation visit.