Friday, October 31, 2014

Coffee talk...

An interesting question comes up from time to time for those of us who live in Germany courtesy of the American government.  Why aren't we allowed to have coffee shipped to us via APO?

Well, lemme tell you, when Bill and I lived here from 2007-09, we didn't know about the coffee rule and we used to have Peet's coffee sent to us all the time.  I know it's coffee you can get in the grocery store, but we'd have it mailed right after a roasting.  More than once, the post office people commented on the heavenly aroma.  Not once did they ever mention the ban on having coffee shipped.

In the five years since then, they've apparently gotten a lot stricter about coffee coming through APO.  I haven't tried to order coffee from the States, but I have heard that people have lost their APO mail privileges for having coffee mailed to them.  I have also heard that some people do it anyway and haven't had any problems.  Knowing how great Peet's smells, I'm not going to risk it.  That still begs the question, though.  Why is it a problem for APO users to buy coffee through the mail?

First of all, the rules...

Host nation custom regulations prohibit the importation of medication, vitamins and nutritional supplements through the Military Postal Service, in unaccompanied baggage and household goods.

The rule also applies to alcoholic beverages, animals, plants, cheese and cheese products, cigarettes and other tobacco products, coffee and coffee products, meat and meat products, and milk and milk products.

All incoming and outgoing mail is subject to inspection by German customs officials, and violators may be subject to fines and penalties.

For more information, see Army Regulation 550-175, U.S. Forces Customs Controls in Germany, or call the Stuttgart Customs officer at 431-2731/civ. 07031-15-2731
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I imagine the ban on cheeses, milk, meat, and plants have to do with agricultural risks.  The medications, vitamins, booze and supplements rules have to do with legal risks.  I'm not going to expend the effort right now to find out for sure.  When it comes to coffee, though, it's all about money.

There is a coffee tax in Germany.  It's called the Kaffeesteuer.  When you buy coffee in a German store, the tax is included in the price.  When you buy it in the commissary, at AAFES or in the Class VI, you have to present a ration card so they can make sure you aren't buying up a bunch of it and selling it to host country nationals.  If you have coffee sent to you, you avoid both the Kaffeesteur and the rationing and that's a no no.

The link I provided above offers a simple explanation of the tax, which has been collected since Germany was Prussia.  I'm sure the coffee tax is useful, since it surely provides revenue.  For those of us Yanks who have a favorite type of coffee, the tax is kind of a pain in the butt.  I wouldn't mind paying the tax if it meant I could have my Peet's.   

I know other people think Germany has an equivalent to Peet's coffee (or any other brand Americans like), but I sure haven't found it yet.  I hate to keep buying coffee that doesn't cut it for me.  Starbucks, which used to buy Peet's coffee in its earliest days, just doesn't thrill me, though I could probably live with their Pike Place blend.  On the other hand, I am not a coffee fiend anyway.  My husband is the one who is passionate about his coffee.  With me, it's more of a case of only liking what I like, not that I can't live without a good cup of joe every day.

I did find an interesting Web site that sells raw coffee beans in Germany and other EU countries.  You buy the beans and roast them yourself.  Given that my husband enjoys this kind of a project, I may try ordering from Rohebohnen.de just to see if it's worth the effort.  According to their site, it's not too hard to roast your own beans and it's even less expensive to do so, since you don't have to pay the Kaffeesteuer for raw beans.  Keep in mind that if you do choose to home roast, you can only do so for your private use.  No buying the beans, coming up with a great flavor, and selling it to your American friends!  And you'll need a grinder, of course.  We recently bought a good one from Amazon.de.  

Click here for an explanation of the home coffee roasting process...  It looks pretty easy, actually.  Maybe I'll do it just to give myself something new to do.  Will have to update once I pull the trigger.



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