August 2020 - A silky Secret Label sensation. Compostable capsules.
Date Posted:5 August 2020
“The past is passed, the present is paused and the future will be well played.” — Srinivas Mishra
Welcome to our August subscriber newsletter.
Firstly, we wanted to keep our customers updated with the developing situation in Melbourne.
There are no changes or impact to our business from the recently announced Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and our mycuppa facility will continue to operate throughout the lockdown period.
We are securely isolated, the majority of our products are freshly created each day and there is a physical barrier and special loading zone for handover of our freight cargo each afternoon to the freight providers removing the need for our staff to be in close contact - our COVID-19 safe plan continues to work well.
We also have good levels of supplies and resources to keep on running at full capacity for the entire duration of the Stage 4 period and beyond.
There are some shipments from origin that are experiencing delays, but we have contingencies available.
Apparently, 2 weeks ago was the highest ever parcel volumes on record for AusPost in Victoria, it's fair to say that freight has continued to arrive within reasonable timeframes recently and we think that's a real positive considering the safety precautions.
Of course that may slow down in the coming weeks with the new announcements of closures to many retail stores as you can expected increased parcel volumes as merchants pivot to online-only offerings.
We continue to process a large number of orders each day - almost all the coffee we roast in the morning will be gone by afternoon - it's truly astonishing to see the speed of our supply chain and in the fog of battle when pushing hard we sometimes forget this speed is largely unmatched elsewhere.
I've ordered stuff from some of Australia's largest online specialists recently and they have sat on the orders for over 12 days before they even started shipping the item from their warehouses, even though it was supposedly in stock. Yes, I'm looking at you Dell and Officeworks - utterly shocking customer experiences.
Not only are we dealing with a lot more orders each day, but we are also seeing order sizes increase, in many cases almost doubling, so the pre-COVID average for a household was around 2.5kg per order and it's now sitting closer to 5kg.
Do that 200+ times a day and it's quite a lot of coffee, packing, grinding, cartons, labels, tape and human effort, especially as it's all a-la-carte and assembled individually from scratch each day.
The last few weeks in particular have been a step up closer to the crazy late March/early April panic-buying period - it's certainly stretching us, mostly due to the abnormally high rate of freshly ground orders that continue slow us down (grinding pushes us to the wall), but otherwise we are rightfully proud of the incredible speed that fresh roasted coffee is being sent out the door for you to enjoy at home.
To give you some insight, since the pandemic erupted in Australia during the middle of March, we have added an extra 4,700 customers to our mycuppa subscriber list - that's not just new customers, but new customers that wish to hear from us by intentionally subscribing - the total new customer count is quite a bit higher as not everyone wants to be a subscriber.
Whilst that number might sound small in comparison to Australia's population, it's kind of large for a single, niche product segment like specialty coffee and it's on top of the existing list that has grown over the last decade - so thank you for continuing to support our business.
Of course it's always pleasing to hear positive feedback from new customers expressing their joy at discovering amazing coffee experiences during the COVID restrictions. Many have commented that if it had not been for the lockdown, they may never have found us as their coffee rituals were more centred around the workplace instead of at home.
This month we see a return of our popular Secret Label program and we have a beautiful blend with interesting complexity of caramel, toffee, milk chocolate, almond nougat, berries with a silky smooth body and stewed fruit sweetness (Geez, that's a mouthful in itself).
Roaster's Rant is back but he's not going on any rampage - as there's been far too much of that everywhere since COVID, so it's a little story about something nice and why this time of year is kind of special for coffee roasters all over the world - just like Xmas.
Finally, we have our 4th generation Nespresso-compatible capsule ready and available - replete with compostable base. Read our story on why this change is important and how the bio-packaging brigade continue to pull the wool over the eyes of some consumers.
August 2020 Secret Label
We had a lot of fun last month featuring the sublime Guatemala Todosanterita - a stunning single origin that's almost gone.
Secret Label returns in August and we have blended a rare coffee type (peaberry) with some of our store favorites.
It's a classy coffee with salted caramel, creamy milk chocolate, almond nougat, toffee, forest berries and a long stewed fruit sweetness.
Clean, balanced and delicious.
We love the silky smooth sweetness that builds in the cup - it's super-rich in texture.
AROMA - Nuts, berries, citrus
FLAVOUR - Caramel, milk chocolate, almond nougat, toffee and berries
ACIDITY - Medium with sweet citrus tones.
BODY - Rich and syrupy.
BALANCE - Good balance.
AFTERTASTE - Long creamy finish of toffee and milk chocolate.
OVERALL - Sweet cup, clean juicy flavors.
For a limited time only - ending when the allotment has run out which may occur before the end of the month.
Sorry, no 500g packs available.
Grab it here - August 2020 Secret Label
Why green will always be the most beautiful color
The big news this month is a long awaited release of our 4th generation Nespresso capsule using a compostable base.
It has been a bit of a journey as we wanted to ensure the many issues with bio packaging materials were sufficiently stable and mature to avoid risks for both us and our customers.
Fact is, bio resins used to create environmentally-friendly capsule carriers being sold on the market around the world are still not ideal.
Mostly they leach the critical and essential volatiles - not capable of protecting 100% against oxygen ingress, albeit at relatively low rates, but the evidence is indisputable - when you have any kind of leaching that's going to result in degrading levels of preserved qualities.
Unfortunately, the full story on "environmentally friendly packaging" is rarely communicated by retailers as they hide or obscure the real facts.
Missing from the narrative are details about how the quality inside of the capsule has already deteriorated and will continue to deteriorate as long as the capsule is unprotected.
Why would they provide full disclosure when it might turn some customers away from purchasing ?
I have been rather surprised and disappointed to read customer reviews on websites of some fast "capsule marketers" when their customers are commenting on the excitement of actually smelling the aroma from the capsules in carton they were shipped and mistakenly believing it "must be fresh" - well, it sort of half is and half isn't.
For coffee beans or ground with the special 1-way valve packaging, that's a normal reaction to detect aromatics from outside of the packaging via the standard de-gas of fresh roasted coffees - it's a reliable way of testing freshness for coffee beans and ground.
However, detecting strong aromatics in capsules it's not normal. The entire point of a portion control product is to trap or suspend the volatiles inside of packaging as it has already been ground and is at risk of rapid oxidization.
When aromatics leach outside the capsule it means some of the active, volatile compounds essential for great coffee have already escaped or are escaping right under your nose - to borrow the pun. This leaching is via the bio-resins.
In addition to the leaching, some of these environmentally beneficial coffee capsule packaging suffer from alarmingly low melt points, way down to a scary 85 C, which means consumers can easily risk having the capsule damage their equipment if they leave it in the machine for too long - which can and does happen by accident.
When we say too long, it's not what you think..... barely a few minutes can distort certain bio capsules causing the capsule to jam inside the machine.
There's a good reason Nespresso originally designed and engineered the aluminum capsule - to preserve the volatiles and to endure an unknown lifecycle period which could run from months to years until a capsule was consumed. But we all know the negative carbon footprint of aluminum and the promoted recycling campaign have really low and unacceptable adoption rates.
Our new capsule base has the highest melt point available from the bio-resins and this carrier is fully compostable, just like the ground coffee inside it, so we are happy with the outcome. It also has the best oxygen barrier.
However, the lid materials continue to prove challenging and many retailers are just ignoring the issues and selling products that are not adequately preserving qualities - which I guess comes as no surprise - keep is secret and don't let the consumers know.
The specially designed compostable lid materials (our tests involved products engineered in Italy) need to satisfy the composting requirement but also provide a barrier to protect against oxygen ingress and at the same time allow proper penetration during the brew cycle from myriad of different machine types with varying capabilities.
The testing did not go so well this time and we have reverted to a well known and trusted performance of the traditional foil lid for security and to reduce risks of failures. Surprisingly, the lid is the most critical area of the entire capsule.
Removing the thin foil lid is simple and significantly lowers the volume of waste as the small foil lid can be placed into the recycling refuse.
We have also chosen to provide a sound, proven re-seal able outer barrier as secondary protection so that your capsules arrived in the best possible quality, compared to many other capsule sellers that ignore this important function by shipping in cheap paper or cardboard that offers zero protection - just look at those supermarket offerings, not only is the coffee inside the capsules terrible, so is the protection !.
And finally, it's all about the coffee.
Almost all of the capsules on the market are produced with alarming high doses of robusta coffee to add a so-called mythical level of "strength".
However, a point often lost on most consumers is that robusta is grown at far lower altitudes, so it's literally drowned in pesticides and chemicals to keep up the yields and fight off pests that attack low altitude crops.
Robusta is not really needed in capsules - it's the lazy, unskilled and cheap-focused roasters solution to providing some imaginary "bite".
We don't need robusta - it only drags down the result. Nobody enjoys woody, tar, rubber flavors, but that's solely robusta's claim to fame.
A skilled roaster can work magic with quality arabicas - fine acidity, sweet flavors and greater clarity of cup.
In a few months we hope to have our 5th generation capsule released - setting a new benchmark for quality in the cup, super-freshness, variety and value - all the same principles we pioneered with premium single origin coffees more than 12 years ago.
The period from July through to September is typically the busiest time of the year for coffee roasters with many of our new season harvests arriving from origin.
I won't lie, we are just like excited children on Xmas eve impatiently waiting for the moment to tear open the wrappings on our presents.
Yes, it's truly exhilarating to play with fresh, vibrant coffee lots as we discover what's different......... try to understand what's changed from last season and more importantly working out which lots are going to cup up as our standout favorites and making the cut into Grand-cru or secret label categories.
This year we seem to be more than a little bit excited and anxious than at any time I can recall in the past decade. Maybe it's a symptom of our monotonous and somewhat lockdown restrictions removing the joys of our freedom, or perhaps it's the epic volumes of the last 4 months that wiped out so many extra tons of our holdings, whatever it is...... we are seriously pumped and raring to unleash these new lots like a sprinter hunched over starting blocks waiting to explode on the gun.
You see, new coffees are like a new lover - everything blurs into a dizzying array of perfection as you sip on a brew with rose colored glasses.
Because it's new, it must be good, or better, isn't that the foolish logic ?
Raw or green coffee deteriorates as it ages - but it does so at dramatically different rates to the roasted coffees.
For example, fresh roasted coffee has an arbitrary peak of around 2 - 3 weeks, or perhaps a bit longer during winter or cool climate whereas green coffee is allegedly capable of lasting 3 years, but we don't know about that because we can't get ours to last even 12 months as it flies out the door so fast.
Besides, who wants to hold onto something for 3 years when there are fresh coffees landing in Australia every month!.
We implement some of the most advanced storage practices for raw green coffee in Australia and it's no secret we have been doing these extra measures for more than 12 years, long before the rest of the coffee industry even know about this critical practice of preserving quality.
Almost every coffee company bangs on about how they are sourcing great quality, but it's also about how you look after the coffee that makes a true difference in the end result. Beyond the claims of "best" often many fail to back it up across the entire life cycle.
So by now you will notice that some of our coffees will be different, or changing, in fact those changes are flowing through to about 85% of our portfolio, including all our blends which are prepared using the same single origins we sell everyday. Some coffees may undergo more than one change as we transition in new lots across a few months.
Some of the new lots have been exceptionally well received and producing everything we had hoped for - as an example, the new Costa Rica Jaguar is just divine and has pleasingly returned to top form.
It's kind of ironic that we expect more each year from our coffees - bigger flavors, better sweetness, increased body so it's important that we improve upon the overall experience.
Of course this is our philosophy when sourcing coffees but let me just say it's not easy - we are indeed dealing with an agricultural product that in some seasons may not be the best available due to less than optimal growing conditions.
As an example, Ethiopia is notorious for having higher ranges of volatility in terms of differences between seasonal good versus great.
We are really enjoying many of the new lots and can't wait to release these beautiful coffees.