Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The bean smuggler
One downside of traveling in the Caribbean—it can be damn tough finding a decent cup of coffee. Too often what you wind up with is Nescafe and, as every confirmed caffeinoholic will agree, that just don't get it. It's a guaranteed mid-morning headache. Even if you can manage to down a cup of the stuff.
So I travel with my own mini French press and a bag of ground Kenya AA from my pal's at Palmano's. But there's a downside to this, too. On my last two trips to the islands, in St. Martin and Barbados, I've been waylaid by custom agents who've come across the coffee in my bag. They have taken me into tiny rooms where they have proceeded to check out me and my luggage from stem to stern, stopping just short of the ol' finger probe.
From my trip to Barbados:
Customs agent: "What you doing with this coffee, mon?"
Me: "I'm planning on drinking it."
Customs agent: "Restaurants here got coffee, you know that?"
Me: "Yeah, but I like to make my own coffee."
Customs agent (studying me with a new level of suspicion): "You sure you going to drink this coffee?"
Me: "Well, there's not enough for me to bathe in it..."
After this incident, I started asking around and it turns out that smugglers often put ground coffee in their bags to mask the smell of cocaine from the dope-sniffing dogs. Who knew?
So as I pack for my trip to Trinidad to research the next book, I'm trying to decide if it's really worth it. A full-body and bag search at the airport? Or a week without decent coffee?
No-brainer. I'm smuggling ...