Globetrotter: Cafe Direct's John Steel travels far and wide for the best coffee

John Steel, CEO of fair-trade coffee supplier Cafe Direct, found paradise in Sri Lanka. Next stop, Uganda and Kenya.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Where do you travel?

I go everywhere from Central America, Africa and Asia to eastern Europe. I tend to make only three to four trips a year but I pack in a lot. I'll meet the coffee growers and other partners we work with, or attend meetings and conferences.

Where are you going next?

This month I'm going to Uganda and Kenya, where we have some tea growers. Next year I'm going to Peru, and Boston for an industry meeting. I recently got back from Colombia, where we have several growing partners. Many of our partners are small businesses. We visited a coffee farm there which is two acres on a hilltop and run by a mother, father and their children. I've only been in the job for a few months so I'm trying to get out and see as much of the business as possible.

Most essential travel item?

The only thing that matters is having a power adaptor, a phone and a laptop. Everything else I can cope without.

Favourite city?

Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. It's steeped in history and very proud. I went out there to visit friends. Tokyo has an incredible buzz but Kyoto is a different way of life. I love Barcelona too.

Favourite hotel?

Seven years ago I stayed at the Ranweli complex near Colombo, Sri Lanka. It's an eco-friendly resort a couple of hours away from the capital in the middle of nowhere. It's very quiet, surrounded by acres of forest, and the people there are very friendly.

Worst-ever travel experience?

When I went to Colombia, our connecting flight at Chicago was an hour late. We ran and pushed our way through security with five minutes to spare. But American Airlines, the airline I was travelling with, sells your ticket if you're not there 15 minutes before check-in. We couldn't board another flight until the next day. It was infuriating.

How do you cope with jet lag?

When I'm flying I'll just sleep or switch off. This makes the jet lag easier to deal with. I'm a big coffee drinker - my favourite is Cafe Direct's Machu Picchu coffee. That keeps me going the next day.

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