September 2021 - Congested parcel shipping from lockdowns, Secret Label is a hazelnut delight. African coffees flying under the radar
Date Posted:8 September 2021
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Hunter S. Thompson
Welcome to our subscriber newsletter.
Let's start by dealing with that ubiquitous elephant in the room - parcel delivery shipping.
It's an essential service we all rely upon these days and with lock down restrictions continuing for longer than expected across parts of Australia, it was bound to eventually result in parcel network congestion and transit delays, particularly along the eastern seaboard.
Collection drivers have been telling us for weeks depots are overloaded and overflowing with parcels - walls and walls of cargo. We have always considered collection drivers as a "canary in the coal mine" providing valuable insights as to what's happening on a broader scale. When they tell us it's bad, without fail 100% of the time it proves to be correct and we brace for pain that's just a few days away.
Parcel networks have "hit the capacity wall". It's been a frustrating month for us and indeed all merchants relying upon parcel networks around the country.
When parcel networks are overloaded and congested, efficiency plummets and stupid stuff happens - some items get through OK, other items disappear into big black holes for too long only to reappear without explanation later. It's totally random and the only predictable feature is the very real prospect of a delay.
Inevitably 99% of the issues reported to us are what is referred to as "last mile", the final leg to your door. With too many parcels and not enough delivery agents, it's the poor delivery drivers being forcibly overloaded with impossible daily targets of delivering up to 200 parcels in a short 6-8 hour window.
It's no wonder delivery agents might consider cutting corners or dropping standards because tomorrow it's going to be even worse - they have no respite, like being dragged into rough surf with wave after relentless wave crashing down.
Cards not being left, parcels sitting in depots for many days, incomplete addresses, delays waiting for re-delivery, agents not following the delivery instructions and leaving parcels in random locations, parcels being dropping at collection points without attempting delivery, leaving parcels at the wrong address and parcels mysteriously disappearing all fall under the same risk umbrella called "last mile problem".
Last mile delivery issues are worse in some areas than others and it's a problem that's been affecting all freight providers for years, not just during the pandemic where it's amplified from the surge in volumes.
Some of the recent solutions implemented by shipping companies involve recruiting casual delivery agents in standard vehicles (sedans or SUV's) to run around areas dropping off parcels. Often the training and experience of these agents does not match the professionals as their engagement is on a short-term, casual, gig-economy basis by the hour to process growing backlogs of last mile drop-offs that aim to fix bottlenecks and excessive congestion in parcel networks.
Earlier this week AusPost took the unprecedented action to temporarily suspend Parcel Post collections from all retailers and merchants in VIC, NSW and ACT as a circuit-breaker to help throttle the incoming capacity so they can clear overflowing backlog. Their decision was also based upon critical shortfalls in resource levels with up to 500 AusPost staff per day, every day isolating or complying with health orders.
There's no silver bullet to congestion problems except patience and ordering ahead of time to allow for extra delays in transit - anywhere up to a week is now the norm. Everyone is affected equally, we also order a lot of supplies and have to wait for our deliveries to arrive.
Imagine waiting 5+ months for raw coffee to arrive because there are no containers or sea freight capacity at many of our coffee growing origins......welcome to our ongoing nightmare with raw coffee stranded in foreign countries with no reliable hope of knowing when it will ship.
Please take our advice - place orders earlier as congestion issues are never fixed in a short time, it can take many weeks to return to normal and since there is still no firm opening dates in Victoria and NSW we can assume this current period of longer transit times will prevail for at least another month or longer.
In fact the congestion is expected to become worse as time drags on with demand outstripping capacity every day, freight companies are falling further and further behind.
Before you know it, the annual crazy online sales blitz (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.) will be upon us with big retailers luring shoppers into a frenzy to buy now for Xmas. That's when the proverbial well and truly hits the fan and parcel networks crumble, so please be warned and aware of how the next few months may play out for typical parcel delivery time frames.
Our guess is a return to normal levels won't occur before Feb 2022 when the seasonal peak freight season starts in mid October and runs through to the end Jan. Sobering indeed.
Last month's Secret Label smashed records outselling our previous best result by a whopping 29%.
We roasted so much of the August Secret Label it became our best selling coffee for the month, toppling our beloved Suuweet - something we never thought possible, maybe the tailwinds of the lock down restriction helped kick along the demand.
This month we have crafted a blend with classy, lush attributes - crisp red apple, hazelnut, plum, dried cherry, milk chocolate with a long buttery finish.
Exceptional coffees flying under the radar
African coffees have a certain X-factor, whether it's intensity, sweetness, complexity, flavors, fruits, etc
Whilst most people generally associate African coffees with the likes of Ethiopia and Kenya as the most well known and popular, it might surprise you that we rate Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda coffees as more than a match for their famous neighbors.
Our Burundi, Tanzania and Rwandan lots are exceptional, not only in quality but also in price and value.
If you have not tried them in the last few months, we recommend giving them a run as they are stunning in milk-based espresso beverages - flat white, cappuccino, latte, etc.
September 2021 Secret Label
September's Secret Label is a rich array of hazelnut, plum, dried cherries and the sweetest of milk chocolates.
Last year we featured a delicious micro lot from Central America that really won the hearts and minds of our devoted Secret Label followers.
For many months afterwards, customers were asking for more, but as is always the case with these special lots there is only a fixed quantity available.
The new season lot arrived in mid August and we set about pairing the coffee with something that would provide some contrasting texture without interfering with the fundamental characteristics of the highlight coffee.
The result is a lovely tapestry of flavour and balance as the elegant structure of the blend spreads linear across the palate.
The notes of crisp red apple serve purpose as black, but the sweet acids work with amazing harmony in milk.
*** Sorry, it's all sold out **** please take a look at October's super-sweet fruity sensation.