Plan a Coffee Origin Tour

Specialty coffee buyers visit the communities and estates in coffee-producing nations, known within the industry as coffee origin tours. This five part online guide describes the purpose for hosting a coffee origin tour, and outlines steps to organize one successfully.

Part 1: Why Coffee Origin Tours?
Part 2: Setting Goals for a Coffee Origin Tour
Part 3: Inviting Participants
Part 4: Coffee Origin Tour Itinerary
Part 5: Planning Checklist for a Coffee Origin Tour

Why Coffee Origin Tours?

Specialty coffee buyers visit the communities and estates in coffee-producing nations, known within the industry as coffee origin tours.

Craig and Andrew on a coffee origin tour with Nishant

Craig and Andrew (buyers) pose with Nishant (producer) on a coffee origin tour to India

The purpose of these trips is to:

  • Locate and sample coffees and sources of supply
  • Discuss quality goals and flavor preferences with coffee producers as part of an ongoing relationship for trade;
  • Determine production quantities and negotiate pricing for upcoming harvest seasons, and;
  • Learn about and maintain social contact with the people and places where their coffees originate.

Trips occur yearly or more often, sometimes at the beginning of each season. The purpose is to plan orders for critical or competitive supply origins or to discuss pricing and credit arrangements. Coffee-buying trips are often made during harvest when practical decisions are made after tasting early lot samples.

Frequent communication and the development of beneficial trade build relationships over several harvest seasons. It also leads to mutual respect and friendships between buyers and sellers. Relationships reduce the cost of marketing and purchasing, increase communication efficiency, and lower risks for both parties.

For the buyer, loyalty from a seller provides early access to the best quality coffees each season and assurance that contracted orders are shipped as requested. For the seller, the relationship offers a predictable market at agreed price premiums higher than anonymous transactions. These are often with a payment structure designed to meet the organizational needs of the seller. In the event of unexpected problems, trading partners with strong relationships are more likely to find a fair solution. Sometimes, it is at a short-term loss to one or both parties rather than walk away from a transaction, damaging years of goodwill.

A coffee origin tour is often a first introduction for coffee buyers considering purchases from a producing origin. Over time, origin tours facilitate the development of long-term relationships with coffee producers.
The specialty coffee industry is built on the principle that every coffee is unique. Coffee origin trips support the specialty concept by demonstrating what makes each place unique.

What is a Coffee Origin Tour?

A coffee origin tour is a guided trip taken by coffee buyers (importers and end-user roasters/retailers) to coffee-producing regions for approximately one week. Tours are organized by producer associations, exporters from producing nations, or sometimes by coffee importers from consuming nations. They are tailored to the specific interests of each traveling group. Trips designed for buyers seeking to buy within a season are conducted during the harvest so that information about quality and lot availability is known.

The experience of an origin tour is both educational and rewarding for the buyer:

  • Providing access to remote smallholder farming communities that are otherwise difficult to contact and reach as a solo traveler unfamiliar with the location and language.
  • Supplying practical business information about coffees available for export, production processes, and conditions unique to a specific region.
  • Encouraging the development of interpersonal relationships with farmers and exporters in a low-pressure environment and
  • Delivering a meaningful firsthand experience that leads to compelling storytelling in consumer marketing and develops a deep emotional connection with the place.
David meets with elder in Timor-Leste

David enjoys a chat with a village elder in a coffee farming community

The experience of an origin tour is also educational and rewarding for the coffee producer:

  • Providing access to high-value consumer markets that are otherwise difficult to reach and navigate,
  • delivering qualified and motivated buyers to their doorstep,
  • Facilitating communication with buyers so that sellers understand the needs of a market and so buyers understand the needs of their sellers.


Next, Part 2: Setting Goals for the tour