THIS POST IS INTENDED TO BE INFORMATIONAL ONLY. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYBODY ATTEMPT TO IMPORT COCA TEA INTO ANY COUNTRY WHO IS NOT PREPARED TO LOSE THEIR INVESTMENT, OR, DEPENDING ON THE COUNTRY AND OTHER FACTORS, FACE STIFF PENALTIES AND POSSIBLE PROSECUTION. DRUG CONTROL METHODS USED BY BORDER CONTROL AUTHORITIES MAY CHANGE IN THE FUTURE, SO PLEASE READ THE BELOW KEEPING IN MIND THAT THINGS CAN AND DO CHANGE OVER TIME.
IMPORTING COCA TEA IN YOUR LUGGAGE
Before you pack that lovely coca tea into your luggage, it’s best to know what can potentially go wrong.
Coca is a controlled substance in the USA, listed as a Schedule II narcotic (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/812).
No distinction is made between the refined deadly drug and the whole leaf, which is a huge injustice to health-conscious people all over the world.
Bringing coca tea back from a visit to Peru may result in seizure of the goods. Prosecution or financial penalties for attempting to import coca tea is practically unheard of, however, at least in the USA.
At the end of the day, if you are planning to bring coca products back from Peru, we feel your biggest risk will be the loss of your money used to buy the tea, as well as a potentially disapproving look from a Customs official.
It pretty much will come down to the inspecting Customs officer upon arrival in your home country.
Customs officers are human, of course, and their personal attitudes, beliefs, and potential ignorance of what coca actually is may influence their decision to seize.
Some officers know about the tea, but wave it through, as they know its harmless. Other Customs officers may be more hard-line and by-the-book, and will seize your coca. As I mentioned, you’re unlikely to receive a financial penalty, but technically they could do that, as well as more severe legal measures (again, these are all but unheard of, but all possibilities must be considered!)
Technically, if they really wanted to, they could refer you for prosecution by federal authorities, but I’ve never heard of such a thing – they have bigger fish to fry, doing the important work of trying to stop truly dangerous things coming to our country – and bravo to them!
WHAT ABOUT DRUG DETECTION TESTS USED BY CUSTOMS, OR SNIFFER DOGS?
Good question – glad you’re thinking about these things 🙂
To our knowledge, there is no field test currently in use that will detect the small amount of natural cocaine molecules found in coca tea products. A suspicious officer would have to order a laboratory test, and who would bother with that? It’s easier for them just to take your tea and let you pass. Also, no drug-sniffing pooch is trained to detect tea!
The reason is one of biochemistry. Cocaine presence tests used at border control points, the stuff that makes hard drugs like cocaine turn blue to indicate a positive detection, do not work on coca tea, as the molecule they’re looking for, cocaine hydrochloride, simply isn’t present in unprocessed whole leaf coca tea. Coca Tea does contain organic cocaine molecules in their completely natural and holistic form – it’s a separate chemical entirely.
Cocaine is a synthetic (human-made) drug, and is a “salt” of the extracted cocaine molecules. Cocaine is dangerous and highly addictive, whilst coca tea is benevolent to the body and mind in many, many ways.
PRO TIP 1 – YOUR COCA TEA IN DISGUISE
Your best bet is to buy a bunch of normal tea bags, or green tea powder (way stronger than tea bags), in a Peruvian supermarket, then disguise the coca tea bags or powder by exchanging the contents by placing it into the regular tea packaging. I’ve done that a few times when taking coca tea powder overseas, to and from the US, with zero problems.
PRO TIP 2 – SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Another thing that may help your successful import pass through the Customs check is to buy a few packs of legit health products and keep them with the disguised coca tea.
Peru is an amazing country with huge biodiversity, and with some of the most potent superfoods in the world.
Get yourself a bag of Maca powder, Moringa tea, or any other legal product, such as a bottle of vitamins, and keep them close together in your luggage. This will reduce suspicion, as it would simply look like you’re a health-conscious traveler 🙂
TO IMPORT OR NOT IMPORT COCA – THAT IS THE QUESTION
We will not recommend anybody to import anything into any country that may land them at risk of penalty or financial loss. Having said that, the risks of serious trouble are surprisingly low, from all the anecdotal evidence we’ve seen. If you choose to attempt bringing coca leaf back to the USA, or any other country, we can only wish you good luck and hope for your ultimate success!
On the other hand, many people would feel uncomfortable taking even such a relatively minor risk, or are simply nervous travelers and don’t want another thing weighing on their minds.
That’s where we step in. We have been running a US-based coca tea shop for a few years – Tea for Life USA.
Tea for Life USA only ships coca tea that has already cleared Customs controls, and so all the tea we sell is 100% guaranteed to arrive at your doorstep.
Concluding Side Note
People also try to buy coca tea online direct from Peru.While some tea sent directly from Peru will certainly get through, it is unknown what percentage of coca tea imports get seized. It could be 30% or it could be 60%+. This data isn’t made public by Customs, for obvious reasons. Many people get lucky ordering direct from Peru, but for many, their tea simply never arrives.