September 2019 - Packaging waste. Secret Label is a fair go for coffee farmers

Date Posted:2 September 2019 



“Education is the art of making man ethical.” — Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel



September 2019

It's hard to escape the plight of coffee farmers around the globe - they have certainly been doing it incredibly tough.

This month we offer a certified FAIRTRADE Organic coffee as our Secret Label to encourage our customers in making the switch to ethical sourcing in support of coffee farming communities.

As a first, we have also revealed the coffees used in preparing this Secret Label blend - Colombia, PNG and Mexico. It's a lovely result with notes of red cherries, plum, caramel, toffee and dark chocolate.

Our opinion piece this month looks at the rise of activism in coffee product packaging - Playing the Shame Game.



September Secret Label

Our September 2019 Secret Label is now available for a limited time in 1kg packs.

This month we want to support the global coffee farming community by offering coffees from the only certification program in the coffee industry that's honest, genuine and properly controlled across the entire flow of goods from farmer, to exporter, to importer onto the roaster and the end-consumer - the FAIRTRADE system.

I've written in the past about how some certification programs in the coffee industry are not adequately managed, promote hollow promises or are just atrociously leveraged by large corporations and companies seeking a place to "hide" from the risk of being called out for unethical sourcing - so I won't bang on here about how bad it really is.

For this month's Secret Label we are going to try something different - for the first it's not going to be a secret - we have not offered these coffees combined together as a blend in the past, so it's fair to say that it is indeed new and quite special.

We have taken three(3) of our popular certified FAIRTRADE Organic coffees and created a delicious product offered to encourage our customers to make the switch to ethical sourcing in support of FAIRTRADE.

Not only are these coffees also certified Organic, we have paid the FAIRTRADE premium that ensures farmers receive a higher price for their crop, directly helping secure a more sustainable future for these farming communities.

Colombia, PNG and Mexico produce stunning coffees in their own right. There......we have gone and done it...........revealed the Secret for this month. These certified, FAIRTRADE and Organic lots are crafted into a rich, sweet and superbly balanced blend that delivers in spades.

Individually, we had these coffees well sorted and gauged. However, during the blending process we managed to develop interesting characteristics that were not part of each standalone coffee - aromas of fresh strawberries, pleasant tasting notes of red cherries and dark chocolate with delicious salted caramel and toffee flavours in the finish.

One of the things we love about working with Organic coffees is the unpredictable results - you can literally uncover surprise packages whereby not every cup is the same as the last. Due to the organic process, the coffee is not as consistent as say a traditional coffee - that's the interesting X-factor in Organic coffee where it can soar to incredible heights with pockets of amazing fruits.

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

Please note, some of our Secret Label offers have often been sold out within two(2) weeks despite upping the allocation, so there is no guarantee the offer will remain open for the entire month.

AROMA - Strawberry, cocoa

FLAVOUR - Sweet red cherry, salted caramel, toffee, dark chocolate.

ACIDITY - Medium, juicy, citrus, balanced..

BODY - Rich, full, syrupy.

BALANCE - Excellent.

AFTERTASTE - Plum, port wine, caramel.

OVERALL - Interesting juicy acidity with cherry, plum and chocolate.

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

Grab it here - *** SORR, SOLD OUT *** September Secret Label



Playing the Shame Game

We get more than a fair share of crazy emails landing into our inbox every day.

Yes, we are busy just like everyone else, but I feel compelled to speak out about something that's becoming just a bit annoying - the "single serve packaging waste" shame game.

I'm not sure about the rest of the nation, but here in Melbourne we are shockingly deep into a severe recycling crisis that has been clearly festering for a long time whilst councils and governments have been asleep at the wheel.

Of course, it was always going to end in tears when councils continued outsourcing their rubbish collection services to the cheapest rogue cowboy operators, banking their perversely expensive rate payments and turning a blind eye to the longer term consequences.

Waste, some of it toxic, remains dangerously hidden in warehouses across Melbourne and buried in rural properties, contaminating the soil and water arterial s. In the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld in response to a lack of evidence for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction - we have "unknown unknowns"......when it comes to hidden toxic waste.

But back to the wacky world of the weird people habituating the internet.

We  receive at times what can only be described as "bizarre" messages from concerned citizens (or I should say activists) demanding we stop packing our capsules and pods in the appropriate packaging and instead offer these single-serve coffee products without any suitable barrier protection whatsoever - because apparently we are killing the planet - ironically, it's not the manufacturers of these plastic pod machines fueling the obvious demand.

Sure, we get the planet, eliminate all metalized foils and unnecessary packaging, but the reality is that when you are dealing with fresh roasted coffee, there are active compounds that "leach" through almost every type of plastic or bio packaging (from a process called effusion) rendering the product stale, lifeless and "dead".

If you can imagine being in our shoes for a moment. We receive these emails asking us to remove all the wrapping and protection on pods and capsules and to ship the product "naked" to the customer......

Hmmm, sounds great in theory but who is going to take all the risks of the product being judged "inferior" or even "defective".

So, in our most earnest way, we try to explain that coffee is remarkably different to almost every other food ingredients in that it's got all these complex active compounds that require a metalized foil barrier to protect and preserve it's freshness.

Without this protection, the product is rendered lifeless. We can't remove this barrier because it will inevitably end in us being dragged into disputes, complaints and demands for refunds.

Unfortunately, the sensible and logical explanation often falls on deaf ears with some zealots. Bio packaging is still not 100% effective, despite the continued deceptive marketing attempting to convince consumers they have something that doesn't.....tests in the most advanced European labs have proven microscopic holes in bio packaging do not provide an effective freshness barrier for coffee.

This debate will rage on for a long while until there is a scientific breakthrough with rigorous testing endorsed by independent agencies. At the moment you have companies desperately trying to exploit a point of difference in the market by fooling consumers with their "packaging" claims. It's nothing but a promise......and we all know that promises are not a surety.

When attempting to explain to the person asking for this change it would be easier for them to ditch their plastic pod or capsule machine because it's the primary driver of all this excessive packaging, and suggest instead they should move to a bulk coffee beans system, it inevitable ends up going around in circles with the same line of blaming us for "destroying the planet".

It's hard to argue the sensible logic of reducing the demand side by eliminating pod and capsule devices.......but that's not going to happen any day soon.......... owning and using a pod or capsule appliance is directly supporting the growth of the single-serve portion control market and the associated accumulation of excess packaging that attaches itself to this ultra-convenience.

We don't use aluminum capsules because the impact upon the environment to create the aluminum is 3 to 4 times greater than the alternatives - a fact that is often carefully obscured by the largest provider in the market.

Recycling programs for aluminum coffee capsules might appear on the surface as a great initiative and depositing the empty capsules at a facility (e.g. florists) is a "feel good" gesture, but behind the scenes it's just creating a massive energy deficit required to collect, sort, clean and then convert the recycled materials into something that can be reused.

Statistics on the adoption of recycling are rarely published (which we guess is probably deliberate), however, we are aware the rate of adoption remains worryingly low with some figures quoting below 18% - perhaps it's the reason nobody wants to know the real score and the world's largest food manufacturer has huge vested interests to keep the PR spin positive.

We continue to monitor and research better ways to reduce our impact upon the environment and keep abreast of the latest advances in bio packaging. When the product proves itself in the market so that our quality will not be compromised, it's a no-brainer to adopt these new materials immediately.

What consumers need to understand is that selling coffee products, or in fact anything these days in a retail environment is terribly competitive - we simply can't afford to drop standards or having quality compromised - consumer expectations remain at an all-time high, the product needs to perform in the cup, otherwise it fails in the market.

We are acutely aware of a growing activism in recyclable packaging. You only need to look at the latest trends in retail shopfront fit-outs (Country Road recently built a new store from recycled materials).

Like all businesses, we have an impact upon the environment and it's important we continue to invest in initiatives to reduce our effect.

For many years our facility has operated with high capacity PV arrays, we invested significant capital to implement sophisticated heat re-circulation systems on our primary roasting plant and we have also installed the most energy efficient thermal oxidizers for treating the emissions from coffee roasting.

It's kind of ironic really that we do everything right and yet somehow we get pinned as a target instead of the many, if not most, smaller coffee companies that don't use the correct systems to treat emissions because it adds considerable costs and complexity to their operations, they get away scot-free by continuing to release smoke and contaminants into the air.

We also take a holistic approach to the waste materials from roasting coffee beans - chaff and hessian bags - carefully diverted into mulch and reused for farming - nothing wasted.