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How to import coffee to the USA

For any traveler the idea of going in search of a morning coffee following a late arrival can be daunting and so many take their own coffee with them so they can avail themselves without hassle of their morning pick-me-up.

Others might prefer a specific coffee brand that might not be available in their destination although some global coffee brands can be found around the world with little difficulty.

However, bringing coffee into any of the 50 territories is subject to import legislation regardless of whether it is instant coffee, strong ground coffee or any other derivative of coffee so it is important to know beforehand the types of coffee and the quantities that can be brought through US Border Control and avoid trouble.

While many countries around the world won’t be too concerned by a small jar of instant coffee in a person’s luggage, the traveler may nonetheless be subject to customs checks and larger quantities or some specific derivatives of coffee importing might be questioned. It is down to the traveler to know the requirements prior to their arrival so they can have any relevant paperwork available should it be required for inspection by customs staff.

What coffee can I bring into the USA?

Coffee comes in many forms and derivatives and each has a separate classification so to avoid any trouble at customs here’s a handy overview of how to import coffee into the USA.

Roasted Coffee

Instant coffee is usually pre-roasted at a high heat, ridding the coffee beans of any potential pest risk that might exist within the bean. Bagged roasted coffee will also have been subject to heat treatment and is safe to bring in usually in unlimited quantities although as coffee is an agricultural product it should be declared at the US point of entry.

Unroasted coffee

Coffee that has not been roasted, also called green coffee is usually permitted without the traveler requiring a permit. However, unroasted coffee is more likely to be subject to inspection by border officials as there may still be a pest risk present in unroasted coffee.

Unroasted coffee is also prohibited in being brought into some US states so check before travel if the intended destination is one of those. The continental States is usually without incident, but entry to the United States via the Island states such as Hawaii can only as transiting goods.

In all cases though, inspection of unroasted coffee beans is likely and might be subject to temporary quarantine and fumigation if pests are found to be present.

Whole coffee berries


Importing whole coffee berries is prohibited in all US territories due to the presence of fruit pulp which is attractive to fruit flies and other pests and so unprocessed coffee will be refused entry.

Of course, most travelers won’t be travelling with whole coffee berries so this won’t be an issue. Most are likely to travel with roasted coffee either in jars as instant coffee, or bagged for use with a ground coffee machine.

Larger quantities might incur some questioning regarding use of the coffee, but so long as it is for personal use then there should be no problems bringing in an amount of roasted coffee to the United States; just make sure to declare it to the customs official however to avoid any problems on arrival.

Bringing coffee into the United States as a tourist is perfectly legal so long as the proper procedures are followed and in most cases an import permit won’t be required so long as it is declared properly when asked and the traveler will only use the coffee for personal use and not for commercial purposes.

Also, regardless of which type of coffee is brought in, be sure the country of origin of the coffee is clearly marked on each jar or bag as this will help inspectors determine the coffee meets entry conditions.

In most cases travelers bringing coffee into the United States will do so trouble-free and without incident, although with a huge range of coffees available across the United States there might not be much of a need to bring in coffee in the first place!

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