Let’s say you’re traveling and you buy a delicious bag of exotic coffee beans as a souvenir. Or you can’t live without your favorite low-acid coffee and just have to bring it along on your vacation. When you start packing your suitcase, you may wonder: can you bring coffee beans on a plane?
We’ll tell you everything you need to know about coffee beans and airplanes, including packing tips to ensure a smooth trip.
What does the TSA say?
For domestic US flights, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can bring coffee beans on a plane in carry-on and checked baggage.
There are a couple of caveats, though. All final decisions fall to the TSA agent checking your bag, so there’s still a chance your beans won’t get through. The TSA recommends packing your bag so that any food (including coffee beans) is labeled and easy to pull out. An agent may ask you to pull the beans out so they can see the rest of your bag better.
What about international flights?
International flights are a little trickier because many countries have rules against bringing in food or plants. These rules are usually meant to protect the country’s native plants, livestock, and agriculture. Bringing seeds, soil, or meat from across the world can introduce new pests that could be very damaging. Your cup of coffee probably isn’t worth destroying an industry or ecosystem, right?
The first thing to do is read the specific requirements for the country you’re entering. Look for an official government website and if you’re unsure, ask a customs agent when you land.
What if you’re entering the US?
Although the US generally doesn’t allow you to bring in meat, plants, soil, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables, you can usually bring in coffee. When in doubt, ask a customs officer or fill out a declaration form. The agent may allow you to bring in your coffee anyway.
Here are the current specifics — though you’ll probably want to confirm on the USDA website before you fly. You can bring an unlimited amount of roasted coffee beans through any US port of entry, but you do need to declare them.
You can bring green coffee beans through any continental US port of entry (any of the contiguous states). But you can’t bring them into Hawaii or Puerto Rico. The amount isn’t limited, but again, you have to declare them at customs.
The bottom line? Declare, declare, declare! And if you’re entering through Hawaii or Puerto Rico, you can only bring roasted coffee.
Generally, you can bring roasted coffee on domestic flights in any of your baggage. It’s up to the TSA agent at security, though, so we recommend keeping your beans organized, labeled, and ready to pull out for easy inspection. If you’re traveling internationally, check with the country you’re entering for specific rules — you may not be able to bring your beans. And if you’re entering the US, you can bring roasted coffee — along with green coffee beans and coffee plants, with some caveats. But make sure you declare whatever you’ve brought!
Have a great trip — and enjoy your well-traveled coffee beans!