Coffee, tea and chocolate: three things I wouldn’t want to live without. I’m basically a green-tea addict and as I’m not quite a morning person, I need my coffee in the morning in order to function. As you probably know, most of these products are grown in tropical countries. Today, many fair trade farms and plantations are inviting guests to stay at their place to experience farm life. Taste the finest chocolate in Nicaragua, learn where to look for when selecting Colombian coffee beans or enjoy a cup of Darjeeling tea while overlooking the highlands of India. These activities give you a pure and authentic insight in the life of local people of the region. Besides learning about the product, you also get to know the region’s culture in a very special way. You’re part of ancient traditions and have meals with the host family. If you’re lucky you’ll even get invited to a marriage or birthday. Read on for some beautiful examples of fair trade holidays.
There are plenty of options in Jamaica if you want to learn about the country’s products. Go visit Sherwood to taste Jamaican fresh rum in the heart of the distillery while listening to ancient stories about the place. It’s dating back 260 years in history. Or have you always wanted to know how they produce sugar from sugar canes? Then pay a visit to the Good Hope Estate plantation, where after the workshop you can zipline and tube your way through its outstandingly beautiful surroundings. If you’re a coffee lover (like me), then going to the Blue Mountain is a must. You’ll find this plantation up in the mystical rainforest’s hills. These are often covered in mists and inhabited by many exotic birds.
The famous Darjeeling tea is black, and requires a thorough farming method in order to create the characteristic aroma. In Darjeeling you will see this process with own eyes, up in thee mountains of the West Bengali province (East India). Go for a hike and climb up the Tiger Hill in the early morning before sunrise. The enlightening of the hills will take your breath away. In the Sikkim village Pastenga you can support the organisation KEEP (Khedi Ecotourism and Eco Development Promotion) by staying with a host family. A unique experience whereby you empower the locals financially and protect the environment.
In Puerto Quito you get the chance to really step into the life of a local farmer. Harvesting cacao and turning it into chocolate is an interesting process. Luckily hard work pays off; because of course you get to try the chocolate as well. There are several farms (or finca’s) in and around the village. Therefore, going for a (long) walk around the village is a special experience. The local people are so kind, as soon as they see you they won’t hesitate to invite you to their home for some coffee. If you speak a bit of Spanish you’ll notice that the farmers will become your friends within a few days.
Sleeping at a homestay, guesthouse or at a farm is offered by more and more travel organizations. The rise in popularity is due to the fact that travellers are looking for more authentic experiences, where they see the country in a pure way. And what better option is there than sleeping at the locals’ homes? A Dutch travel organization (and social enterprise) that is specialized in such travels is Better Places. Through direct contact with a local travel expert, you design your own custom-made vacation. On their website you can find trips to farms/plantations in Asia, Latin America and Africa. For German readers, I highly recommend Fairaway, the German ‘sister’ of Better Places.