Third Wave Wichteln is back for another year of international coffee exchanging. Now in its sixth year, the Wichteln is a transcontinental specialty coffee Secret Santa, and registration is now open!
Third Wave Wichteln works like any holiday gift exchange, just on a much, much larger scale; last year’s saw over 2,000 people from 62 countries participate according to one of TWW’s founders Markus Reuter. Everyone who wants to participate puts their name in a hat—the hat being an online submission form in this case—and then those participants draw a name from the hat and that’s the person they need to buy a gift for. In this case, the name is assigned to you by TWW to make sure that everyone is receiving coffee from a different country than their own.
The gift must be specialty coffee and meet a specific criteria: no more than five days off roast at the time of shipment, no espresso roasts (filter only), no decaf, whole bean, and single origin. Then you just ship the coffee and wait for yours to come in the mail!
It’s just that easy. But also it’s not. Or is it? As should probably be expected from an international gifting program that relies on the honor system and fully functioning bureaucracies, there are catches.
For one, shipping can be expensive, often comprising more of the total cost than the coffee itself. In the United States, shipping a package internationally can cost roughly between $10-$50 depending on its destination. I spent somewhere around $30 to ship coffee to the Czech Republic in 2016.
The team at Third Wave Wichteln provides participants with information to ease shipping issues:
1. Use customs form CN22
2. Label the package as a gift
3. Specify “whole roasted coffee beans”
4. According to Reuter, “The shipping doesn’t have to be Express. Normal DHL or Fedex is fine. And sometimes it’s worth checking if there is a cheaper way to send just an envelope instead of a package.”
After you're paired up with a mystery recipient and you've sent your package, the team at TWW doesn't provide additional support to assist in tracking the package destined for you. It might show up, show up late, or not at all. For what its worth, I've always received my coffee. Sometimes it didn't show up until February and ripped open by customs but ultimately none worse for the wear.
I've really enjoyed taking part in Third Wave Wichteln, since its inception. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I've received coffee from a roaster new to me every time and it's been fun, as a roaster, to send through a few bonus bits to whoever has been my recipient too. I look forward to it every year!
It's all part of the gift-giving gamble. Caveat emptor. I’ll be back for a fourth year because the coffees I get are always interesting. From a specialty-grade Robusta grown in India and roasted in Poland to a lovely washed Colombian coffee roasted in merry old England, I’ve yet to be disappointed by the coffee I received… eventually.
Enrollment for the 2018 Third Wave Wichteln is open until Friday, December 7th and sign up can be done here. For more information, visit their official website. And while you wait for your coffee, join the discussion going on over at the Third Wave Wichteln Facebook group. Happy gifting!