Trip Planning: An Ode to Coffee

December 29, 2006 by

Places to Go

Coffee Tours from ViatorFew things make me feel more rooted to a place while traveling than a good cuppa joe.

Once, while wandering the wilderness that is suburban Minnesota, my then-girlfriend and I, having driven hundreds of miles already, nearly wept with joy to stumble across one of those mega-chains, still open and churning out super-sized lattes.

Normally we wouldn’t have crossed the street for a mega-chain coffee (then again, in many places you don’t have to stumble because you’re already standing in front of one), but when you’re road-weary and the locals consider a pot of tar that’s been boiling on a hotplate for hours drinkable, well, anything halfway decent will do.

That, however, is coffee in a supporting role. Depending on your level of addiction/obsession (and mine is fairly high), you could make it the leading beverage of your trip – or at least a key organizing principle.

This can involve either seeing where it’s grown or enjoying it in stimulating, possibly foreign locales – or both. Viator’s got several tours that take in coffee plantations, tastings and cultivation in a number of countries.

If you prefer the clean, bright flavors of the Americas, you can go straight to the source in Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Hawaii. We have several ways of getting to the beans in Costa Rica, including all-terrain vehicles, bicycles, car, and on foot. In Hawaii, get a bird’s-eye view by plane. Or take a leisurely tractor ride in Jamaica. The land of ska and reggae is also home to the Blue Mountains, which yield some of the most sublime coffee ever. Savor it on a nearly all-downhill cycling tour (which conveniently conserves your caffeine buzz for the dancefloor).

For the smoother, earthier flavors of Asian coffees, head to Bali, where you can combine a plantation tour with a cooking class, or to a village tour in the the cool mountain climes of northern Thailand.

Of course the point of growing coffee is so that someone can sit down with a silky hot cappuccino or latte and read the paper – and that someone is you. Some of the best places to do exactly that are the cafes of Innsbruck and Auckland, or while cruising the Vltava or around Grand Cayman.

Such a humble little bean when on the plant, but oh so satisfying when brewed to perfection – and so handy when it comes to organizing travel.

Bruce Melendy

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