Why coffees disappear from the store

Date Posted:29 April 2020 

Coffees will come and go - this is the wonder of sourcing best seasonal lots.


Why some of our coffees are disappearing........possibly 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, labelling and shipping - all within what seems like a few short hours every day.

Our fresh roasted coffees sell too fast during the day and so often we are resorting to a mad scramble in production to quickly cover the shortfalls - our roasting sessions are now running for too long every day, there's a lot of coffee to pack, hundreds of parcels to prepare, far too many packs to be ground and the freight companies are collecting earlier - extreme time pressures.

Despite impressive scale - 3x roasters, 3x packaging systems and skilled staff, having so many options and variations in coffees has become really hard to keep everything super accurate and precise whilst processing at super-fast speeds.

The reality is no other coffee company in Australia, or in fact the world does what we do every day - and that in itself explains the problem because it's crazy and bonkers..... at the same time it's also kind of exciting to meet hourly challenges. There is an obvious tension between running controlled manufacturing versus pivoting rapidly to run another batch of coffee - speed is everything when it comes to freshness and onlince businesses.

There are also other reasons why we are doing some pruning.

Coffees will always disappear as the lots we hold are never guaranteed to be available from crop to crop or year to year.

In fact, the consistency of lots remains one of the biggest challenges with sourcing coffees, particularly the specialty grades of quality we offer.

Due to the changes in consumer purchasing habits from coronavirus, we ran through much higher volumes of coffees over the last couple of months as online shifted into a higher gear, so that's had a major hit on our contracted lots - we went through many of our holdings a whole lot faster than planned.

We have to organize our sourcing many months ahead and nobody saw the coronavirus coming or understood it's brutal impact. Sourcing raw coffee is not as simple as getting on the phone to ask for more to be delivered next week - mostly, the lots you really want are unavailable for a large portion of the year and hence reservations are made way ahead.

There are some lots we source literally 7 to 9 months ahead when crops are still blooming in farms and yet to be harvested, just so we can get into the forward pipeline to avoid missing out.

The higher volumes we roasted over March and April 2020 periods tended to be our more exotic lots - these holdings are always a "tight" proposition versus blends where we have more flexibility to ramp up volumes rapidly.

Ironically, it's also this time of year where it's a critically tight supply period - most Central American and African origins are in harvest right now so we are at the end of season and inventories are low inside the Australian importer warehouses, or the lots available may not be the best in class.

New crops are due in from late May through September, so we have to limp through as best we can on our existing holdings, plus we have been lucky enough to scoop up some coffees that were contracted by other companies.

The forced lockdowns from coronavirus n many countries has also slowed the normal flow of goods as shipping lines ground to a halt, borders were closed and strict protocols were placed on handling of goods with medical supplies given priority.

Container movements have been log jammed since China went into lock down late January as most containers pass via China. Shipping lines stopped sailing or reduced their voyage schedules and there is a chronic shortage of available containers in many countries.

The other unpublished factor affecting coffee shipments has been the impact of hospitality shutdowns around the globe. Many big importers have frozen purchasing activities as they assess the fallout of coffee companies unable to fund forward contracts or even pay their outstanding accounts.

Whilst the public won't stop drinking coffee, the consumption rates shift with the types of coffees drunk in the home being different - less cafe or restaurant espresso, more instant, ground and capsule/pod.

Coffee importers are taking conservative steps to survive as cash flow crisis hits their business - along with the falling Aussie Dollar, many are left stranded with green coffee inventories they can't sell or move and some of their coffee company customers unable to pay their outstanding bills.

It's all heading towards some interesting supply dynamics and nobody can predict how it will play out as the economy resumes back to normal.

We have run out of Zambia. It has always been an origin we did not hold large quantities as it's not a common origin stocked by imported. It's possible to source more coffee, but we don't like buying at the end of season. Fresh is always best.

As to whether we continue with Zambia - unlikely. It's not a big seller, but a nice coffee and for the sake of efficiency, some sacrifices must be made, so it's been removed from our store.

Similarly, we have some chronic shortages of Sumatran coffees but the good news is we have secured exceptional new season lots but they don't land until mid-May. It's hands-down the best lot of Sumatran that comes into Australia and we can't wait to get it in the roaster!

Moving forward, we are offering less variety with Sumatrans (5x was too many) as they are also really hard to source and always carry far too many risks due to the special and unique processing methods can lead to a taint in the cup if the high moisture levels during the wet hulling is not handled properly.

We have stopped Sulawesi and some other lots of Sumatrans such as Aceh Gayo - there have been inconsistent qualities and this remains a key risk we don't wish to carry into the future.

Costa Rica has been a difficult proposition for the last few years with smaller harvests and significantly higher prices. Whilst we love Costas, we've made a difficult decision to rationalize and focus upon a stunning single lot. Costa Rica is moving in a similar direction to Panama by commanding high premiums as their economies rely less upon coffee and agricultural commodities and more on developed or advanced business services such as tourism, real estate, retirement villages, etc.

For Brazils, there will always be plenty of options available because it's the largest producer of coffee on the planet. We always hold around 4 or 5 Brazils in our warehouse but the rigours of keeping 3x fresh roasted single origin Brazil offerings available for sale every day takes a heavy toll, so we have slimmed this down to just 2x offerings and that may in the future trim down to a single lot.

Guatemala has been through a difficult 18 months as their economy struggled with the unsustainable conditions from the lower C-index pricing and poor value of the local currency to the greenback.

Guatemala is often described as the most perfect climate for growing coffee, but the government's deterioration and loss of control, violence, corruption and poor living conditions mean it's a desperate venture for most coffee farmers.

We pray for Guatemala's survival - one of our most prized origins. In response we have dropped the classic Antigua and put all our focus behind ensuring our wonderful Huehuetenango continues to kick big goals.

After a long history with our beloved Ethiopia Limu (or Limou) we made an emotional decision to drop it from our everyday line-up. Whilst it's possible to keep sourcing Limu and we may do this for blends, again like Brazils we end up tying ourselves in knots every day roasting, packing and shipping too many offerings.

Coffees will always come and go in our store - some will be featured for a few weeks or a month especially when appearing in our monthly newsletter, then disappear for good.

That's indeed is the true lifecycle of seasonal coffees and we must always respect freshness in the roasted coffee as much as we do in the raw, unroasted coffee.

It also keeps us enjoying the variety and our eyes open to new opportunities offered by something different.

At mycuppa it's never about price or budget, nor convenience - we live and die by the quality of our last roast so it's critically important to offer great value to our customers - sure, there are super-expensive rock-star lots that exhibit jaw-dropping experiences, but they come at hefty price premiums that may not fit within everyone's budget, particularly as the economy is experiencing a series of negative shocks.

The majority of Australian coffee consumers just want a decent coffee that's been fresh roasted and shipped fast at a fair price - that's always going to be our core value proposition.