Mercanta will be conducting a monthly report of any trade updates and global coffee news that we would like to spread to our wonderful partners and clients. Please read the update for February below from our founder, Stephen Hurst:
As February came to a close, we at Mercanta felt as if a light shone brightly at the end of the tunnel. There is a palpable sense of more activity, even a lot more, these past two weeks. Speaking purely from the UK perspective, the country remains on full COVID lockdown until after Easter at least, and partly until June/July. With the hospitality sector closed, the specialty market has been hit, however grocery and online sales have contributed slightly, but not fully, to its recovery.
January and early February were slow and muddled, but as the month came to a close, Mercanta’s business picked up speed. However, problems have arisen at the UK distribution warehouse as Brexit-related export problems exacerbate the delivery congestion issues.
Brexit, hardly unexpectedly, has now imposed a new list of regulations onto all coffee traveling from the UK to the EU. We are pivoting our Continental distribution to our new Mercanta operation in Berlin, although this cannot be achieved overnight. Thus, this has led to a tumultuous system of trade from the UK to the EU.
Our USA business is warming up, but again, profound logistical challenges remain and are worsening. A massive snowstorm hit the Pacific Northwest, covering our Seattle office in snow as Texas experienced some of the worst snow in years and road closures caused significant delays. Alas, recovery came as the snow melted and the coffee reached its final destinations.
Containers inbound to Seattle from East Africa suffered long transits, with similar stories from PNG. The congestion and routing problems for the USA West Coast are spreading wider. Almost all shipments, regardless of source, are subject to sometimes massive delays to West Coast USA. On a bright note, we added a new staff member in Seattle, where Leah now leads a team of four women coffee professionals.
The Mercanta Middle East business has been a shining star performer over the past months, and a “slowdown” in February was only a balance on what has been an outperforming year.
Asia is steady, as elsewhere running behind “normal” but holding up. Some larger specialty customers in Asia and North America have really suffered a drastically reduced (50%+) raw coffee requirement which has tended to impact our numbers in those areas quite profoundly, whereas I believe we have seen “flow-back” of some business from smaller and medium specialty roasters, wedded to their version of Direct Trade, which have suffered a business model disturbance from COVID. Though many continue with the starry-eyed model of Direct Trade somehow improving the quality or integrity of what they are buying.
Mercanta bids farewell to the final containers of the current Brazil season, and even in our small niche of the industry we will report the most exceptional quality of the massive Brazil crop of 2020. We cup thousands of cups of Brazils each season, and it would not be uncommon to find 1 or 2 defects amongst even twenty cups. This past season, defects were nearly non-existent as the 2020 Brazilian crop fared exceptionally.
Cherries are ripening as Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador begin their harvests, which means that Centrals Season is on its way. Colombia moves year-round for Mercanta, due to the numerous different crop cycles, we are always pleased to taste Colombians all throughout the year.
Our first Cup of Excellence Ethiopia purchase was a success and warmly taken up by clients all over the world – which was not reflected in the rest of the season’s crop, which did not fare as well, but was still tasty. Currently, as the new season waves in, Kenya is in the works and surprisingly for some, we have found some nice lots, courtesy of ECOM.
Exciting return to Vietnam and the surprisingly tasty Arabica grown at 1,400masl impressed us with unique tasting notes. Rwanda inbound was logistically challenging, but unloaded this past week, and additional Tanzania unloaded today at the busy UK warehouse who are struggling with weight of activity.
Feb 2021 was the second-best sales month of the 2020/2021 Financial Year which it had no right to be. So, I will take that, and sign off (subconsciously, I created a riddle here, Take That were #1 when Mercanta was founded). Mercanta will be 25 years old on 15th March 2021, and that momentous event carries great significance for me, only that the obligatory and much looked forward to celebrations will have to wait a bit. Cheers to 25 years!