Thursday, April 26, 2007


In the online store - and other news

Typically at this time of year we allow the stocks of certain coffees to dwindle whilst we await new crop arrivals from around the world. This is particularly the case in Central America, where harvesting over the turn of the year is followed by processing and the vital 4-6 weeks of rest in pergamino form for the better coffees.

We are currently stocking such a "well-rested" coffee from the 2006 Costa Rican crop, the West Valley Naranjo Co-op peaberries, and have just run out of stock of the El Salvador Borbollon. However on May 1st we raise the curtain on the new crop season from Central America, and have changed the scheduling of the Costa Rican coffees mentioned in my last post to take account of a pretty unique opportunity.

Those of you who have been buying from us for a number of years - and thanks again for your loyalty - will remember that we used to stock the excellent Guatemala Culpan Estate. This coffee became unavailable about 3 crops ago, as a certain world renowned Seattle roaster pre-financed and secured supply of the entire crop for the foreseeable future. It is testament to the owners of the Finca that they saw this as an opportunity and expanded the area of the estate under cultivation by planting new trees. The main object of this was to be able once again to supply loyal long term buyers who missed out once the long term contract had been signed. These new trees came into production this season and we are happy to be able to offer the first arrivals from next week onwards.

The disappearance of Espresso San Giorgio and Sumatra Lintong from the catalogue is temporary and both of these will re-appear with next weeks arrival of green.

As far as our "relationship" Colombian is concerned we have now virtually exhausted the stocks of La Piramide, and after some tasting with our suppliers earlier in the month, this coffee will be replaced in the range with the familiar Quebradon.

We have now been without Kenya coffee for about a year and those of you who know us realise that this was done with regret, following the effects of the East African drought of 2005. This year we are more hopeful that we can secure the quality with "wow" factor at a price that will make sense to our buyers. More news on this in a month or so.

Despite the fact that world coffee prices are now buoyant and premiums for the speciality lots are greater than ever, we have avoided making any across the board price rises for around 3 years now. Certain coffees do have to be offered at a premium, but we are trying very hard to defend the principle of offering most of the coffee we sell at £3.00 per 250g. Part of the reason that we have absorbed the additional costs on green coffee and on packaging has been the relentless increase in postage charges. At the same time the closure of local post offices now obliges us to incur additional transport costs in getting the coffee to you. In fact the service we are able to get from Royal Mail overall bears no relation to that we had in 2000 when we started at Hill & Valley Coffee in the mail order business.

We have never imposed a minimum order upon our customers as part of our mission was to treat the buyer of a single bag of fresh coffee in just the same way as the buyer of much larger shipments - the principal being that we applied "direct costs only". It is fair to say that this policy is now under review on a constant basis and at some point we may have to impose a minimum order of 3 bags in order to better consolidate our shipments and avoid excess costs. For many customers who already buy in larger quantities this will be no hardship - but we do recognise that there is a hardcore of 1-2 bag enthusiasts who may have to adjust their purchasing or who may go elsewhere if we have to change in this way, and thus we would like to hear your views.

Nothing will change before the application of the next range of postal charge changes but any views on this subject would be appreciated. Please e-mail me direct on to air your opinion.

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