January 2022

As we come into what is the third year of the-time-of-Covid it is tempting to dwell on the situation. We are in winter, the lack of light, the cold, and the general uncertainty can feel overwhelming. But this month, your writer is focussing on silver linings, and we are going to start the year counting our blessings.

Not being able to travel to see the farmers was a real shock and downer for us. We spend a lot of time visiting farmers and it has been upsetting that it isn’t part of our covid life currently. As borders started to open, and flights recommenced, we have taken the cautious line. We don’t want to bring Covid to areas that haven’t seen much of the virus and equally we don’t want to expose our team to more opportunities to contract it through travel. The insurance people have plenty to say about it too.

What we have done though is maintained contact via Zoom, FaceTime and Skype and this has been wonderful. Every two weeks or so we meet with one of the farmers on one of the channels and our team have had the opportunity to listen to them and ask questions and join the conversation. When we do start travelling again, we would like to keep these extended farm conversations going!

We talked this time last year about how the farmers and exporters had to make quick changes in 2020 and adjust to the situation as borders closed and labour shortages started. The shipping situation became highly problematic in 2021 with containers stranded in all sorts of places, and spots on ships became as scarce as hens’ teeth. Shipping costs and now energy costs have dramatically increased and are having their obvious impacts on prices in shops.

But with the help of our friends in the industry we have adapted to new ways of working. We now work with a shipping aggregate who negotiate multiple packages with the shipping lines, getting a reduced rate for volume, and then on-sell individual contracts to companies like ours who benefit from the pricing. This has helped immensely in keeping the shipping cost increases as low as we can and will be something we continue doing.

We have been touched and impressed with the effort and resilience of our team, suppliers and our customers. As lock-downs (overt or otherwise) have come and gone, and requirements and advice changes within a day, our team have done such a great job of adapting to the circumstances of the day. We are so thankful to them for the work they have put in to keep our shops and roastery operating during some really difficult times.

Our suppliers, from coffee farmers to exporters, packaging and machinery engineers, have been amazing at getting coffee and everything else we need to us by any means possible. The hard work of all the support workers in coffee has meant we have had everything we need to keep the ship sailing and a special mention must also go to our very own Tsy who has begged, borrowed and occasionally sequestered, to make sure we have all the bits and pieces that go into making the whole thing run.

And our customers, you wonderful people! Thank you for your understanding and support over what is now two years of this awful situation. Thank you for your patience as we have had to change our shop hours at short notice or deal with random website gremlins!

So, as we start 2022 and we realise we are very much still in the-time-of-Covid we know we have so much to be grateful for. We know challenges are coming our way, but we also have exciting projects we are developing, and we look forward to sharing these with you over the year.

Happy New Year everyone, exciting times ahead!

Monmouth x