May 2020 - parcel network meltdown, Secret Label's dark chocolate complexity, disappearing coffees
Date Posted:1 May 2020
“The ethic of the journalist is to recognize one's prejudices, biases and avoid getting them into print.” — Walter Cronkite
If you don't plan on reading the rest of our Newsletter, please take note of this advice - all freight is heavily congested, so don't leave your ordering to the last moment - whether it's us or anyone else, the parcel networks are the same and delays are going to be with us for at least another month.
Allow and extra week during these lock down restrictions for parcels to arrive - order early as many stores remain closed and all retailers are heavily promoting their online offers - pushing extreme volumes into the parcel networks resulting in congestion and delays.
Buying local is not going to help - distance is not the problem as line haul is working exceptionally well - it's the parcel hubs where all the delays are occurring and this happens in all freight networks, even local metro parcels - nothing ever travels point to point, it's always spoke and hub via a depot where parcels sit waiting to be handled.
Shipping delays became a lightning rod of frustration for consumers all around Australia and some large brands - Kmart, David Jones, Myer, etc. copped a hiding on social media with their lack of service and slow dispatch times for online orders - further aggravating customers.
Freight companies implemented safety measures in their depots using less staff for handling parcels and with the dreaded delays that Easter always brings each year, on top of higher volumes all these factors combined to create the perfect storm of an average 11 day parcel transit across the networks.
We are not able to see transit performance as freight companies refuse to publish these metrics to their customers, but we know from the huge spike in customers asking for help......oh, and and of course for many years our family has been buying almost everything we need online, so we also experienced these dreadful delays - waiting close to 3 weeks for parcels to travel from the next suburb.
At it's peak, we were receiving around 40+ messages each day, for a few weeks from frustrated customers asking us to fix the delays - which as we all know is not possible from our end. The best we could do was continue to ship parcels fast, working all through Easter and weekends so that orders got on the road fast and the time from order to ship was a mere hours, not days.
AusPost were the main offender - ruled by bean counters more concerned about their target cost-cutting bonuses than making an effort to fix problems. Whilst we can appreciate a need for safety, the tight-wads in control at AusPost allegedly placed an overtime ban at the start of April - if it was true, it's just shows the plain dumb decision-making when record parcel volumes are causing chaos.
AusPost management paralyzed and unable to think outside the square were hiding behind lame excuses instead of putting in place some actions to improve their performance or efficiency. Sure, we can respect the safety measures, but don't play games with cost control when the country needs services to perform.
Claiming there were not enough vans to collect the higher volume of parcels was comical when hire companies had most of their van fleet sitting idle, of course AusPost don't act like an organization rapidly capable of adapting to pressure, instead they plod along like nothing has changed and make everyone suffer.
Slow transit times are going to continue for a while yet as it's becoming obvious that some retails brands have "seen the light" with online and many are planning to reduce or close their bricks and mortar stores, pushing even more freight into the crippled parcel networks.
Congestion remains high in all depots and if something manages to sneak through within a normal time frame it's more a case of random good luck than any sign of improved shipping conditions. Parcel network capacity was unable to cope with sales events, Xmas, Mother's Day, etc. before coronavirus, so it's definitely not going to cope now.
AusPost Express is currently no longer next business day but it's still faster than regular.
Sendle parcels seem to be arriving faster than AusPost during April, but we understand some customers may have had a less than ideal experience with Sendle previously.
This month's Secret Label is a journey deep inside the joys of dark chocolate in coffee. It's a risky place to play, but we think the rewards are worth it.
Some coffees have disappeared from our large range, likely forever. We have run out of some exotic lots faster due to higher volumes over the last couple of months and there is some rationalization needed to prune our broad portfolio.
May 2020 - a dark secret
There are only so many directions you can shift into with coffee before you end standing in the corner all by yourself.
Light or dark roast, fruit or chocolate, floral or traditional, truth is we are mostly driven by a desire to create something that's going to be broadly appealing instead of playing a one trick pony that risks alienating masses of loyal devotees.
Secret Label is an expression of what we think fits the brief of a nicely balanced coffee with some elements of distinction that keeps you interested and more importantly wanting more.
At times we may push towards an edge as it presents an opportunity for reward when taking that risk and we have stepped from the middle this month, amping up the bass note to a thumping beat.
Of course it would be so much easier to source coffees from the high temple of specialty and play the pretentious prat, but then many of the flavours and descriptors are not going to match the purpose of your daily cuppa.
After all we must never forget we are in the business of matching, not inventing new taste sensations.
The far edges of specialty is a place where grape acidity, cranberry, lime, jasmine, papaya, honeydew, bergamot, pear, etc. all sound interesting and deserving of merit, but they are indeed better suited for the advanced enthusiast niche segment craving fruity espresso extractions or alternative brewing experiments and disturbingly out of place in the milk-based espresso genre where Secret Label battles are either won or lost.
The juxtapose of delicate fruit elements is dark chocolate - a risky tightrope to walk. When it works, the effects can be amazingly addictive and enjoyable.
However, when it doesn't or the brewing/extraction is not executed properly by the end user, it can have a profound and often disastrous result with drinkers accusing it of being "bitter" - a term surprisingly more often incorrectly identified when encountering dark chocolate in a coffee.
But that's the alluring muse of a dark chocolate beauty - is it really bitter or can you taste the wonderful complexity.
Did you give it a good try by experimenting to find it's absolute sweet spot ?
Milk chocolate is a safe play but can be boring or too comfortable - it's the lazy man's default when it comes to coffees.
Dark chocolate on the other hand is the unpredictable wild child that might just float your coffee boat.
This month's Secret Label is a celebration of dark chocolate nuances but with some balancing elements to buffer the intensity and ensure we don't step over that fine line of being misunderstood as bitterness, it's close and careful at the same time.
A punchy, chewy lot with plenty of grunt in the trunk........ rich arrays of figs, toffee, nuts, caramel and deceptively complex dark chocolate.
Buy as much as you want - we will keep on roasting it every day until the lot runs out.
Our Secret Label offers are often sold out within three(3) weeks, so there is no guarantee the offer will remain open for the entire month - it's not a calendar offer, it's a total quantity and when that's sold, it's gone.
A little bit about our Secret Label coffee
Only available in 1kg bags, sorry, no 500g packs.
AROMA - nut, cocoa
FLAVOUR - cocoa nibs, figs, toffee, nuts, dark chocolate
ACIDITY - medium citrus.
BODY - full, rich, syrupy.
BALANCE - superb.
AFTERTASTE - caramel and toffee with a long dark chocolate finish.
OVERALL - powerful cup with wonderful dark complexity.
Grab it here - May 2020 Secret Label
Why some coffees are gone - perhaps forever
Eagle eyes will have noticed a few coffees recently disappearing from our extensive range and there are a few reasons why we are rationalizing our line up.
For more than a decade we have been selling so many coffees it's beyond difficult to keep up the daily rituals of sourcing, evaluating, storage, roasting, quality control, packing, selling, labeling and shipping - all within what seems like a few short hours every day.We have also been through a period of significant volume that has drained some of our holdings as we await new season arrivals.
Read more here - why coffees disappear from the store
Thanks for your support and loyalty - please stay safe during these uncertain times.