Nearly the end of April16 April 2020
Here we are in the middle of this pandemic with all of you. Really strange and surreal times! I do really hope everyone of you is keeping well and managing to keep some kind of normality in your life at the moment. Here at Monsoon I think we are pretty lucky! So far so good and we have some sunshine too!
Just before lockdown our biggest worry was how on earth do we keep roasting if one of us gets ill. How will we supply all the coffee shops/hotels etc? We knew there would be changes to come but we were slightly off piste! Within 2 weeks about 90% of our business had gone as all those businesses we were worried about supplying, had closed!
As I said, we feel very lucky, you see the other great thing for us is that we have always had a small webshop. We always intended trying to grow it but always seemed too busy with other stuff. Now we have time to try and grow it! All was going well until about a month ago. We were getting busier online, I was able to keep two full time staff members employed, happy days, then the postal service started to struggle!
Each day we have had more and more and more......non delivery enquiries. Those who know us know that normally when someone doesn't get their delivery it's a no questions asked new pack sent with our apologies. This is different though. Royal Mail have assured us that packs will get through, but with delays. They do update their site daily but there ar some serious back logs. Some customers tell me that their postal service is not affected, I don't think there are many places now that are unaffected. The link below is for updates. I speak to my account manager at Royal Mail on a regular basis but things are just not improving. Mainly not enough staff and too many people posting things!
I think if you get your coffee in a week you're doing well, most are about two weeks now.
Every few days we're changing how we do things here. We stopped anyone visiting the roastery and stopped markets before any government guidlines were issued. We decided we would send everything via Royal Mail, even local deliveries.
Now we're back to doing as many local deliveries as we can do ourselves and we have reinstated the collect from Monsoon button on our delivery options on the webshop. If you collect you won't be charged postage. However, you still cannot collect from the roastery but we have a collection point nearby for locals.
I have plastered all over the website that Royal Mail is not delivering on time. We still have 1st and 2nd class mailing options available but please be aware that you will have delays!
For those of you who want a quick, guaranteed delivery, take us up on our temporary offer for Special Next Day Delivery. If you buy 4 bags and pay 1st class post of £3.70 or 5 -8 bags at £5.57 we will upgrade you at our expense to Special Delivery. Remember you have to buy at least 4 bags though for Special otherwise we can't afford to upgrade you. Many of you are using this now and I thank you for that!
Thank you too from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have shown our little business.
Keep well, stay positive and hopefully some of you will be able to visit us again in the not too distant future.
Anne and the Monsoon Team
India - Day 6 & 706 December 2019
Day 6 - Our last day on the farm was a day of relaxation and sampling even more Indian delicacies. A late start, bit of fun with air rifle shooting coconuts and bagging samples to bring home.
Day 7 - 05.30am start for the long, adventurous, adrenaline filled drive back to Bangalore, stopped for a coffee in a highway stop. This was one of the "cool western style" cafes. Robusta coffee! Say no more and the cost for a local was about half a days pay for a double espresso! A thousand near misses later we arrived in Bangalore. We went to a cafe called "Third Wave Coffee" for an acceptable flat white, shame about the UHT milk! A bit of last minute shopping and a fantastic lunch, served on banana leaves and we were dropped off at the hotel for our last night in India.
It's been a fabulous trip, met some wonderful people and learnt more about the issues about growing, processing, selling and exporting coffee. We certainly hope to be working more with the Mooleh Manay estate in the future!
India - Day 505 December 2019
Another day another drive, thankfully not so far this time, off to see a friend of Akshay’s, Shiv, he is a fourth generation coffee grower, who is now also roasting for the local market. A really interesting character, always up for experimenting, larger than life character (apparently used to work in Bollywood, can’t say I’m surprised)! We checked out his shade drying area, and he did a small roast while we were there on his home 500g gas drum roaster, this was fascinating, to cool the coffee when it came out, he emptied it into a tray, took it outside, plugged a fan in, and cooled the beans under it, somehow it seemed to work! We chatted about all things coffee, while we tried a couple of his coffees, and were introduced to a surprisingly pleasant snack, fresh coconut chunks, eaten with lumps of palm sugar, delicious!
After that we headed back to the house, just in time as the pickers had unloaded today's crop, to everyone’s delight, they’d finally managed to properly selectively harvest, and all the cherries were an even red, as required for a better natural coffee.
Early evening, off to see Akshays uncle, who owns the neighbouring coffee estate, Kanbile estate. We had an evening of beer, snacks and music, this was everything from Chicago blues, John Mayell to Amy Winehouse. We had a really interesting chat about the good old days in coffee, the recent climate change effect (predominantly in the last decade) and the dilemma they now face as to whether grow more robusta, which is a much hardier plant, more productive, commodity coffee, but is currently significantly more profitable than arabica which is much harder to grow, although more delicious. The consensus was not to give up on arabica as the current disparity in price could change in the near future. He was also interested in experimenting currently with naturals and anaerobic fermentation, we also discussed the possibilities of a smoked coffee, you’ll hear it first here if this works! A thoroughly fantastic night, finished off with everyone (Chris and Akshays uncle) singing along to Leonard Cohens Halleluiah, the world needs more characters like this!
India - Day 404 December 2019
4:30am start followed by a long drive to the curing works, 35KM, but believe it or not, this takes 2 and a half hours, this tells you all you need to know about the roads in India. The route took us through a stunning national park of beautiful ancient jungle, where we spotted 2 elephants, 2 bison, samba deer, lots of spotted deer and a family of wild boar, the place was truly magnificent and a dinosaur would look at home here. We then decided to take a detour and go on a safari tour, this was a whole other adventure, a windowless bus, zero suspension, over the most unbelievably rugged dirt roads you can imagine, this was to go deep into the jungle and hopefully spot interesting wild animals, we should have saved our rupees, because all we saw were more spotted dear, some mongooses, and a big lizard, no tigers today! The elephants and bison must have gone back to bed. We finally got back, our innards will never be the same, and headed off to the curing works.
The curing works was a step back in time, built in 1873 by the British. We were taken on a tour by the marketing and curing manager Nanaiah, and the general manager Rukmini. This is where coffee is brought to be processed, into the final green beans that we’re familiar with, checked, and bagged, ready for export, or sold into the local market, with less emphasis on checking. The cost of the whole process including hand sorting for the export market, works out at 3.2p per kilo, on average, 50KG of dry, unprocessed coffee in, equals 40KG out, the removed husk, dust and stones are also packed, so the grower can tell that nothing has been siphoned off, this is now a government control board operation, and is run by a cooperative.
Interestingly, the manager told us before 1994/95 there was a government set price for coffee and exporting was not allowed, it was then liberalised, and the price was set by the market. This was beneficial to some growers who were keen on growing good quality coffee, and disadvantaging the smaller, lower quality growers, as previously, they were paid the same, regardless of the quality of the crop. Now the quality of the crop, really matters.
India - Day 303 December 2019
To start the day off, we took a hike around the 200acre Kanbile estate. This is absolutely stunning, a beautiful, shade grown coffee plantation, bordered by ancient deciduous jungle. A lot of the estate managers come from an ethnic group called the Clansmen, they’re a tight knit society and it’s believed they originated from the Afghanistan/Kazakhstan region. They’re generally taller and bigger boned than the general population of India and although they claim to be Hindu, their beliefs don’t really tie into any religion. They pray to their ancestors and they believe in the spirituality of nature and they keep areas of the jungle pristine and wild. They believe this will take care of them and their crop. There are elephants in this area, the closest we got however, was spotting some elephant dung!
We then went down to the wet mill to assess how the anaerobic fermentation was coming along, unfortunately some air somehow got in, and it’s turned to vinegar, the experiment will have to be started again.
Back for lunch, and off for a long drive up into the highland area for some spectacular views. Another drive another adventure, it’s too crazy to describe but imagine if the Gods were gamblers, and they were after more souls, they would place their bets on the corners, EVERYONE'S A WINNER! It seems corners, are the best place to overtake.
Our host wanted to show us another coffee growing area that they are interested in potentially growing in, as it’s at slightly higher altitude. It’s incredibly remote, we almost collided with a water buffalo in the middle of the road, he wasn’t for moving and we saw our first snake, two of them actually!