April 2021 - Stunning Burundi Microlot, Secret Label has interesting acids, Good Guys gone bad

Date Posted:14 April 2021 


“You raze the old to raise the new." - Justina Chen Headley


April 2021

Welcome to our subscriber newsletter.

It may appear we have been a bit quiet in our recent monthly newsletters and perhaps it's reasonable to think nothing new or exciting has been going on.

Well, it's certainly not the case - we started a major project 18 months ago and it's almost finished so we are more than a little excited to drop a brief snippet as it's been a challenging period consuming a lot of our time and energy throughout the difficulties of the last 12 months.

Nespresso capsule drinkers might be surprised to discover that with more than 1400+ sellers of capsules in Australia, almost none of them own capsule plants and the majority don't even roast coffee. Begs the question.....how can they control quality ?

It's a segment dominated by fast marketers operating rather loose with the truth at times - especially the lack of disclosure around most eco-friendly capsules in failing to keep the contents fresh. We also see claims in the tens of thousands for 5-star reviews and the numerous media articles promoting positive endorsements in newspapers, magazines and infomercial TV shows.

There are only a handful of coffee capsule converters in Australia and when we say handful.....you can use just one hand to count. They are primarily contract providers only - that is, they take coffee and convert it on a fee for service basis, most are not fully vertically integrated businesses dealing with importing raw coffee, roasting, capsule manufacturing and retail sales all under the same roof.

We have built our own dedicated capsule plant and it won't be undertaking contract capsule conversion, but instead used solely for the purpose of enabling us to do with capsules what we have been doing in the premium fresh roasted single origin coffee bean market over the last 14 years - transforming the segment by offering flexible choices, higher quality ingredients, fresher products produced daily and to fulfill our desire in providing superior value to our customers.

Beyond the new hi-tech capsule offering, we also hope to announce next month an innovative coffee-related product with a great environmental story and a world first. It's not our own product, but it's using a by-product of our ingredients and the inventor is both a long-term great friend and colleague in the coffee industry - watch this space.

OK, enough hype, let's get into it this month as it's already half over.

First up, we are showcasing a stunning new lot of Burundi that arrived into our warehouse a couple of weeks ago and it certainly deserves a special mention.

It's our everyday Burundi Microlot offering and we think it's an amazing coffee with notes of dark chocolate, cherry and raspberry (yes, taste it in the finish). There's something about raspberry in a coffee that's like the holy grail of greatness.

Burundi is a country with significant challenges and coffee farmers are striving to help build hope and economic prosperity. We have a short video to watch from our import partner showing how the Akawa project is assisting coffee farmers achieve higher prices for their quality lots and build a sustainable future.

Secret Label - this month we are bravely walking the tightrope of terror in bringing together acids that are in theory rarely mixed in a coffee blend - malic and citric.

You know already we love pushing boundaries and this month's lot is certainly interesting with it's bold notes and sweet flights of joy. A powerful cup with punchy performance.

Roaster's Rant is back and boy he's not holding back with the sword this time on how large Australian retail brands  continue to stuff up their omni-channel execution as it plays into the hands of a greedy and dangerous global giant.

Read his blog on Good Guys gone bad.



Excellence from Burundi

Every now and again a new coffee arrival makes a perfect impression of balanced excellence.

Last month's Burundi Microlot arrival is a stunning example of how amazing coffees from this small, poor African nation continue to stand tall to kick high-scoring goals.

This Burundi microlot from the important Akawa Project has a refined elegance and a delightful raspberry and cherry note that's truly delicious as a milk-based espresso and great as a well extracted espresso.

Brown Sugar, Cherry, Mandarin Orange, Raspberry, Red Currant, Vanilla

Grab it here - Burundi Microlot


April 2021 Secret Label

Our April 2021 Secret Label is now available for a limited time in 1kg packs of whole beans (default), or select your preferred grind setting to be ground from freshly roasted coffee beans.

We have blended 3 remarkably different coffees to produce contrasting features in the cup.

There's some powerful, rustic bass notes from a fully traceable Organic lot, prodigious body and texture generated by the opposing acids that bloom to fill the palate's outer boundaries and a stunning microlot with dark berries and sparkling sweetness to round out the finish.

A coffee with distinct and unique attributes that dare we say it is a bit of a gamble with bold flavors and a deliberate, risky move by pairing both malic and citric acids in the same cup.

Technically, it's kind of against the "text book" theory of coffee blending, but we are brave and able to back our expert roasting skills.

There's a lot going on here with the cup changing as it develops amazing complexities.

Rich in praline, toffee and caramels, the juicy sweetness of the berries plays delicately against the rustic dark coca notes.

Buy as much as you want - we will keep on roasting it every day until the lot runs out.

AROMA - baker's cocoa,

FLAVOR - praline, caramel, dark berries, milk chocolate

ACIDITY - alternating malic and citric - yes, believe it.

BODY - rich, full, syrupy.

BALANCE - a lot going on, refines in the finish.

AFTERTASTE - caramel, chocolate and praline with dark berries.

OVERALL - develops amazing complexity.

For a limited time only - ending when the allotment has run out which may occur before the end of the month.


Roaster's Rant - Good Guys Gone Bad

Being chronically time-poor, I've never been one of those price shoppers trying to save a dollar by comparing deals and instead value convenience over cost.

It's why I've historically supported retailers like The Good Guys as their store is nearby and whenever I have needed something quickly, it's simple to get in and out really fast, or at least it used to be.

Over the last 14 years we have probably spent a small fortune with them on computer equipment, appliances, etc. as every transaction just seemed to work so well.

A good friend has been working from home for more than 12 months since the beginning of the pandemic with her office in Melbourne's CBD closed until recently.

Before the shift to home working, she looked forward to her daily ritual of espresso coffees in nearby city cafes. How to obtain that important daily caffeine fix, or 2, became one of the first issues to deal with being stuck at home.

Messing around with espresso machines and grinders was never going to be her preferred option, so instead she opted for a plunger as instant was not appealing.

Every few weeks I would grind up some nice fresh coffee beans and drop at her veranda on the way home. Each new, fresh pack was greeted with adoration - intense aromatics, rich and vibrant flavors and that important bold cup only fresh coffee can deliver.

After many months repeating this process of freshly ground coffee and then seeing how quickly it degrades, my friend began to understand the lifecycle of fresh coffee and why pre-grinding coffee inevitably speeds up the deterioration.

So I politely suggested she purchase a basic grinder for use at home to use whole beans and extend the enjoyment period of the coffee. Recently, with her birthday approaching I decided to buy her a grinder so she could prepare freshly ground coffee with a plunger each day.

Being short on time, I had though it would be convenient to just pick up a grinder as I drove past The Good Guys.

Having been in that store so many times, I knew exactly what I wanted, where it was located and proceeded to ask for assistance from a store member if they could please grab me a unit so I could purchase the grinder.

Here's where it started to fail. This is a small grinder, it's also not heavy and no different to many other small kitchen appliances that were neatly tucked away near the display items.

After 12 months of frenetic pandemic purchases by households around Australia, it seems this model of grinder, albeit basic, was still a "high demand" item and only available via Click & Collect, despite stock being available in the store as confirmed by the staff member.

So to buy this appliance I must order it online and either have it delivered or wait for notification by The Good Guys and then drive back down to the store and collect it.

With other errands to run, I asked the store member if they could just put through a sale at the counter so I could go away and do my tasks, then come back in a few hours and collect. Nope - struck out again.

Its just an entry level grinder, nothing special or fancy and unfortunately this was turning into a real struggle to understand why all the fuss if they had stock in the warehouse out the back.

Reluctant to order it on my ancient not-so-smartphone without reading glasses, the experience of being ushered away from a store empty handed when they had stock available was truly perplexing.

Taking a moment to ponder, I thought to myself........what's the point of having these expensive stores, staff and not enabling goods to flow to the customer, particularly when I was one of barely 3 customers in that huge store.

Now in a grumpy frame of mind, I stomped back to my vehicle, took off back to the office and placed my online order thinking their promising offer of "Ready in 1hr or less" would redeem my negative opinions.

Nope - struck out a 3rd time...... I placed the order just moments after the cut-off time had expired.

The next day I received the notification my order was available for collection and to print out the email and take it along with my ID for collection which I duly fully complied with their requirements.

With the optimistic expectation everything was now going to be OK and I'm likely to be back on track, I attended the normal click and collect counter and was rejected once again......... not able to process my order, so they told me to go outside to the rear of the warehouse around the back. For a moment, let's be kind and not score a strike for that rebuff as surely I was overdue for a lucky break sooner or later.

Unfortunately, when I drove around the rear, 10 large trucks and vans were waiting in front of me, the poor guy on his own doing the picking was having trouble processing the orders, it was raining cats and dogs and I ended up waiting for what felt like forever, way too long in my now irritated state..... obviously not a good time to collect from their warehouse mid-afternoon. So, let's score the collection process as another strike.

The simple act of buying this small kitchen appliance had turned into really hard work and by the time my order was finally in my hands the Good Guys has gone bad.

When searching for something entirely different on the internet later that day, I ironically found a cheaper price on the same grinder at another online seller, it could have been delivered to my door the next day for free (nice promise, but in reality unlikely given shipping is still a random lottery) but the point is I would have saved a lot of time and frustrating running around.

This folks is a classic and it seems all too common example of epic failure in omni-channel sales strategy (repeatedly similar problems with Repco, Bunnings and Officeworks, both in and outside of lockdowns).

Holding limited stock (or deliberately creating an illusion of scarcity by keeping it centralized), pushing customers into a restricted corner, treating them like crap and causing so much friction in the process that it's bound to destroy loyalty towards the brand.

How is their idea of omni-channel a step forward when it's this difficult ?

Companies with large investments in physical stores are tinkering with the concept of forcing customers to place orders online and in the process they are deluding themselves as to whether it's a better experience for everyone involved.  It seems they are focusing only on their own selfish, myopic, internal needs.

I've had a few rare click and collect experiences that were great, but it seems to be the minority.

Every second day I receive yet another marketing email from The Good Guys with the same stuff being promoted - buy online and save, or Click and Collect for extra savings.

It's clear they are tying to push customers away from their existing point of difference (a store) and into the vast melting pot that is online shopping perhaps in the hope they can survive this race to the bottom with a high cost base simultaneously paying for all those physical stores.

It's hard to see the merit of cannibalizing your own store networks with email incentives to buy online whilst holding expensive store leases and sales staff.......do they really think in a commodity market it's easy to offer anything different online ? I'm afraid not.

No doubt it's the hero management promoting the promise of reducing costs and improving workflow (whilst collecting huge JobKeeper bonuses), but clearly the customer experience has been lost in the process and they are possibly blind to a rapidly growing large global competitor with much faster execution capability.

Australia's retail giants have had more than a decade to build efficiency with omni-channel and most are still pretty crap at getting even the basics right.

Continued poor execution in Omni-channel is how Amazon gets a leg up in markets with their faster logistics over the fumbling retail brands that currently have a distinct advantage with their national store networks.

Some Australian brands are failing to realize their significant potential and can't leverage the opportunity because they are prioritizing cost reduction and profits over delivering a basic, fundamental customer experience.

Ultimately, it's short sighted goals by companies with short-term objectives led by management with even shorter performance targets until they can receive their bonuses.