July 2018 - 3 new limited release coffees, a business legend retires, trouble in paradise

Date Posted:1 July 2018 

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” — Plato


July 2018

It's been a chilly start to winter here in Melbourne - already having lost count of the sub 2 deg C mornings - the only time of the year we eagerly throw around back-breaking heavy sacks of coffee to keep our bodies warm.

July marks the start of a new business year and for us it brings in a series of changes to our roasted coffee offerings. We are featuring 3 new, exciting and diverse coffees in short-run, limited releases.

Customers crave variety and this is all about the opportunity to taste some truly superb lots. We have picked 3 interesting coffees that are only available for a short time until sold out. We think there is something special about these coffees.

  • Colombia - a stunning red-honey micro-lot from a tiny farm in Tolima **SOLD OUT ***.
  • El Salvador bourbon that's just super delicious as milk-based espresso.
  • India premium arabica with jaw-dropping flavours from Kelagur Heights.

A true giant of the business and coffee world retired recently and whilst it's over there on the other side of the world, we salute Howard Shultz's exceptional contributions to the world of coffee and society.

During July, we are designing and releasing 3 new ongoing coffees based on popular customer feedback. These coffees are offered at a competitive value point in the market - no dates are set and there will be no announcements, so keep an eye out in the mycuppa store.

Our opinion piece this month looks further into the widening gap between the over-capacity of cafe coffee supply and the escalating tensions in the wholesale segment.


short-run, featured coffees

Just like 31 December marks a key point where many of us reflect and contemplate the stuff we can do differently or better in the new year, 1 July creates a pivot moment for businesses to reset and approach the next period with renewed vigour.

Over the last few months we have signalled our pending change in strategy regarding the monthly newsletter campaigns - specifically the offers.

These promotions have evolved over the years from establishing a platform to educate our customers on the broader detail of each featured origin until they morphed into utter crazy and frenzied discount buying that literally pushed us beyond practical limits and at times tested our resolve.

With 10,000+ Newsletter subscribers, you can imagine the impact of promotional events on our disciplined, time-critical operations. Each day, every minute matters - our coffee needs to be fresh roasted and packed daily and customer's orders must be sent out........lob a big campaign in the middle of all that and it's like dropping a bomb on our operations.

It's time for a reset.

What's been missing from our portfolio over the last 18 months has been the raw excitement of new, high grade micro-lot offerings.

Ironically, we never stop buying these types of coffees as they would often be directed towards our subscription clients, but we struggled to find the time and oxygen required to get these truly beautiful gems into a broader program that would do justice.

Holding us back have been too many internal initiatives - all aimed at improving production, roasting, quality, speed, processes or logistics, etc. Collectively, they help us deliver a superior offering and enable us to do things our competition can't easily match.

Now it's time for some fun.

Our monthly Newsletter will feature a small collection of hand-picked micro-lot coffees and we hope this program will appeal to our growing list of hard-core coffee enthusiasts - after all, life is about varied experiences and not everything needs to be coloured in a shade of Monk brown.

These are small lots, having similar meaning to micro-lots and it's due to our purchase of just a few hundred kilos each or the producer had only a small volume available.

There may be instances when we take more than a few hundred kilos (like a ton or even many tons) or we might repeat a popular offering if we can source additional deliveries. But often it's the case that small, expensive and exclusive lots move incredibly fast - here now, gone in just a few days.

Think of curated products - they are not bulk or commodity. Farmers have carefully picked, graded, segregated and processed the coffees with distinct or unique attributes - they clearly stand out.

Coffees identified with excellence by Exporters and both the Importing brokers and coffee roasters take special care to evaluate what are essentially regarded as "showcase grades" - it's really a chance to shine a spotlight on coffee.

You can buy as much as you need, there are no discount codes as the prices are already reduced comparable to the market.

However, we are applying restrictions on these limited run coffees - they are only available in 1kg Whole bean packs (no 500g packs and no option to grind).

***SOLD OUT *** Colombia Tolima Edwin Hernandez

First up is a delightful coffee from Colombia and probably this month's pick as the top lot in terms of overall grade - we don't have much of this coffee and it's from a truly exceptional producer that has prepared a wonderful coffee under difficult and challenging conditions.

Edwin Hernandez is a young, innovative and dedicated farmer of Finca Alto Bonito in the Herrera community, an isolated area in the Bilbao municipality of Southern Tolima.

Edwin's farm is just a small 1.5 hectares in an impoverished area that lacks essential farm infrastructure and is regarded as a dangerous area for violence and crime. This particular lot is red honey processed - a high risk method normally only undertaken by large, well funded and resourced coffee farms.

The small volume of coffee produced by Edwin's farm is managed with extreme care. Hector took a big risk in attempting to produce a honey processed coffee and it's paid off with an exceptional quality cup scoring a strong 87 points.

Stunning coffee in every regard and one of the best Colombian lots I've cupped so far this year.

*** SOLD OUT *** El Salvador Alto Cielo

A challenging origin to source coffee for some years due to the ravaging effects of the coffee leaf rust (Roya) epidemic and internal domestic conflicts.

This  sweet tasting bourbon varietal is from San Juan Opicio, La Libertad, Llamatepec.

We loved the juicy notes of cooked fruit and praline with a solid score of 84.5 points. 

Incredible with milk, this coffee reminds us of the famous El-Salvadors that took the specialty coffee world by storm in the 2009 and 2010.

Grab it here - El Salvador Alto Cielo

India Kelagur Heights SLN

Our specialty offering from India this month is the highly respected Kelagur Heights which is a fresh lot arriving into our warehouse in mid June 2018. This premium coffee consists of SLN9, SLN6 and S795 varietals that are all full natural processed arabica.

A beautifully textured coffee with great complexity and a refreshing departure from the acid-driven coffees of Central and South American origins.

We have plenty of this lot and will offer this cofee on-going past the July promotion, it's superb.

A coffee to savour and we scored it an impressive 85.5 points - wonderfully lush in milk.

Grab it here - India Kelagur Heights SLN


A business legend retires

Whatever you may think about the US coffee behemoth Starbucks, it's probably a good bet you don't know much about the exceptional contributions and achievements of it's long serving CEO and recently retired Executive Chairman Howard Schultz.

Howard is an outspoken business leader, often pushing forward opinion and debate on US politics and policy (some think he may run for president in the future, which makes for an interesting prospect with a remarkably good chance of a win), but it's his incredible focus on what many regard as the "socially conscious entrepreneur" that deserves greater attention and respect.

Howard led Starbucks from a small local Seattle coffee chain in 1982 for over three decades to build it into the world's largest coffee brand with 28,000 stores in 77 countries.

Recently, their stock has been trading down on the news they have reached peak saturation and Starbucks stores are cannibalising each other in the US, so Starbucks will close a couple thousand stores to remain competitive. Only McDonalds McCafe can come close to reaching this sort of scale.

There was a period in the early 2000's when he stepped away from active leadership for 8 years, but was forced to return in a desperate effort to save the company's fortunes after dramatic expansions caused Starbucks to lose it's way in quality and risk of financial challenges.

Schultz was an early leader in moral, social and ethical rights - whether it was related to same sex, racial differences, opportunities for veterans, guns or student debts. Schultz was a trailblazer in the world of business mastering the fragile balance between profit and conscience.

He changed the expectations of consumers when it came to coffee consumption after a visit to an Italian cafe and brought the customer experience to the front of everything Starbucks did.

Shultz created the almost impossible concept of "3rd Place", a default destination you went to that was not your home (1st Place) or work (2nd Place). Many companies tried to copy Starbuck's 3rd Place model, but none have succeeded. He made it welcoming and desirable for a broad range of consumers to visit Starbucks.

Along the way he pioneered ground breaking programs such as employee health care (even for part-time workers), stock options and college tuition and put in place initiatives to hire veterans, military spouses and refugees.

Schultz referred to all staff as partners, not employees. Whilst I have no idea of the numbers, it's likely his focus on social benefits has touched and improved the lives of millions of former and current partners/staff.

Incredibly, Schultz was able to fund these social programs whilst rapidly expanding Starbucks and returning a whopping 21,000 share price growth since Starbucks listed in 1992. A feat unlikely to be matched by any business leader.

Howard Schultz take a bow.


Roaster's Rant

Perhaps it was just an ironic coincidence, but it seems last month's Seeking - Attention Seeker article came at a time when sections of the Australian coffee industry were indeed navel-gazing, or at least looking at themselves in the shiny reflection of their highly polished stainless espresso machines and shaking their hipster-hatted heads in dismay.

There's a storm brewing. The wind has changed and you can smell something in the air besides the aroma of freshly ground beans and cardamom-infused slow-brewing chai.

Let's join some dots.

To read about how oversupply and hubris is contributing to tensions in the wholesale cafe supply segment - Trouble Brewing In Paradise