making coffee on a mountain in the snow

How To Travel With Coffee

Coffee on the move

Travelling is synonymous with anyone in the armed forces. There are rare treat trips to California so you can throw yourself out of a plane, a 6-month deployment to the current flavour of choice warzone or everyone’s favourite battle camp near wet undulating ground in mid-Wales. Over the past 18 months I have had the joys of experiencing them all (much to the detriment of my relationship). Travelling is unsettling but for me personally, some small wins can make it feel like the norm.

Every morning that I spend in my own house, I have an insistent routine of flashing up my Sage coffee machine to create a cup of black goodness. When I’m away from home I ensure that I maintain this routine. Despite trying, a Sage coffee machine DOES NOT count as “weapons or essential travel items” at the Brize Norton check-in desk. Luckily, the diversity of coffee brewing allows for more creative non-bulky ways to get my morning fix.  

I travel to most places with a Hario V60 metal dripper, filter papers, a Rhino grinder and of course Contact Coffee in a vacuum sealed container. Hot water is nearly always available so no need for a jet boil or a kettle. Pour over coffee is an art that creates epic cups of coffee. James Hoffman on YouTube demonstrates impeccably the process to a fine cup of coffee with a V60. Typically, coffee beans can last up to 10 days before the freshness starts to disappear. This is handy due the RAF’s habit of adding delays to a journey. Fresh beans and a coffee grinder will help create enough fresh coffee until suitable internet connection is found to submit my next order with CCCo or until I have locally sourced a credible coffee-of-opportunity.

Many of us expect the same things from a UK based battle camp. Green mattresses on narrow beds. (Usually urine stained on a broken bed), overcrowded room, (20 grown men to a room. Always early risers. Always snorers) and an arrogant camp commandant from a minor army regiment (probably created his own traffic rules for government owned land. Acts like grass is a rare plant that dies once a rubber soled boot makes contact. Eagerly watches hungry service people pick their food from the hot plate in the hope someone has the audacity to add an additional 11g of protein to a plate of undercooked chips).

Relying on the cookhouse to offer a decent standard of coffee is similar to expecting a pay rise in line with the national inflation rate. It’s not happening. What a cookhouse does offer is hot water, so as long as I am armed with answers to the commandant’s pointy questions about making my own coffee in the dining area, I can continue my morning routine of making coffee.

I have witnessed some people use their own kettle in the 20-man rooms. This does offer flexibility, but it will get used and abused by every person in that room (I’m usually one of them). Coffee on Battle Camps is easy.

A 2-week free fall parachuting package in the California means hangovers and fear. Free fall training can be an intense 2 weeks with early starts and adrenaline highs. The bed down location is usually a hotel close to the drop zone which is much more comfortable than a Battle Camp. Americans love their “cup of freedom” so finding a quality café isn’t hard. I still insist on taking my coffee kit because I know I will enjoy what I brew, and it continues the routine that I have maintained when I have travelled to other locations. Despite my insistence on maintaining this routine, I find it very difficult to make a morning coffee after strawpedo-ing a bottle of Fireball the night before. I only recommend strawpedo-ing anything alcoholic when you don’t have to throw yourself out of an aircraft the next day.

Overseas operations are why anyone joins the military. They are a period of intense stress and take service people away from normal society for periods of up to 6 months. Routine is incredibly important to remain balanced and focused. The moment I reach a deployed location, I focus on perfecting a sleep, gym and coffee routine. When times become stressful, I re-cock with a coffee or blow off some steam in the gym. My last deployment had long unsociable working hours of 0830 to 2300, 7 days a week. Admittedly, I burnt out quick and my gym routine disappeared. I did however maintain my morning coffee ritual which enabled me to keep grounded. My Hario coffee kit worked a treat and managed to get more papers flown out as my mates returned from R'n'R. Finding decent coffee was slightly more difficult.

After speaking to local nationals and conducting other low-level research, I was able to procure some Ethiopian Guji which was a rare treat in a hostile place. Armed with Guji coffee and my Hario, I was set up for the deployment.

Travelling with coffee is simple once you have your kit perfected. There are many other coffee travel kit choices such as the AeroPress or an Nanopresso. It’s about finding what works for you. The beauty of coffee is as much about the process as the taste. The process and the routine can assist with making a busy travellers life grounded and less chaotic. Don’t rely on good coffee being everywhere you go. We know this cant be relied upon because we established Contact Coffee based on our experiences of being let down.

Portable Coffee making equipment

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