Pippa McCreery @ 2023-02-22 12:02:43 +1000

Finca La Santa has come to town packed full of end-of-year cheer!

This cracker of a coffee from Panama opens with warm aromatics of cedar and dark chocolate, and the cup reveals rich flavours of plum and honeycomb, with a little splash of port for festivity.

Buttery smooth, with a light green apple acidity, the La Santa wraps up with a toffee sweet finish.

You can read more about it HERE.


This past month, as we celebrated 30 years of roasting, we've taken a moment to reflect.

One of the things we're most proud of is our very special Bean of the Month program, which has been running now for almost twelve years.

Frith La Vin Lloyd, our Bean of the Month content writer (coffee taster extraordinaire, coffee trainer and general coffee guru) reflects on Bean of the Month over the last twelve years.


All the coffee, everywhere... all at once

Whenever I tell someone I write about coffee for a living, the response is always the same, “That’s so cool! You must love your job!” And it’s true, I have a really sweet gig!

I love it for all the reasons you’d expect: it’s fun and interesting, the people are great, and yes, we get all the cups of coffee we can drink, made by the best baristas, for free.

What really rocks me back on my heels when I stop to think about it, is not the sheer volume of brews I consume - and how much it would cost me if I went back to the other side of the counter - but the variety.

Working for a coffee roaster, it’s like the whole world opens up to you in a brand new way. Coffee is always being grown, harvested, picked or processed, somewhere on the globe.


As I sit writing this on the cusp of another Brisbane summer, the coffee cherries of El Salvador are nearing the peak of their sweetness, and workers are making their way to the farms for harvest season.

Peruvian producers will be winding down from the end of the process, watching their washed and dried crops be packed for shipping.

Over in Jamaica, they’ll be fertilising, pruning and preparing the trees for their next bloom in January.

Out in the warehouse there are samples of the new crops from Rwanda and Bolivia, ready to be roasted and cupped.

A quick scan of the inbox gives us lists of over a hundred different single origins available to us, and we’ll make our buying decisions based on quality, character, and availability.

Coffee drying

One hundred & fifty three million coffee beans

Merlo roasts over 20 tonnes of coffee each week. A single coffee bean weighs about 0.13 grams, so that’s over 153 846 154 coffee beans. Every. Single. Week.

The lion’s share of that is made up by our blends, for which we re-source the single origin ingredients every harvest season to keep the flavours, body and strength seamless from year to year.

These demands mean that we buy much of our coffee from the bigger farms, and large co-operatives, who have the resources to produce what we need at that scale.

large coffee farmer

The independent farmers, small coalitions and micro-mills simply can’t fill the quota. So while we have always been able to enjoy samples from all of those producers who are pouring their heart and soul into producing exciting and new flavours from their individual harvests, for a long time we had no real way to share it.

That’s the position we found ourselves in over a decade ago which prompted our Bean of the Month Series. It wasn’t a grand plan, and we only came up with the title a few editions in.

It started with a few bags of coffee from PNG, dropped off to the roasting house in Bowen Hills by a producer we’d paid a visit to earlier in the year. Those bags contained a special lot they’d been working on for a few years, using new farming techniques and hand processing to try and improve the quality of the beans.

We roasted it up and about half the first bag ended up being drunk by the staff at our Bowen Hills and Fortitude Valley stores, with everyone from accounts to the cafe juniors wanting a cup or three.

We put it up as a chalkboard special, and raved about it so much that it was gone in weeks.

Bean of the Month - Every Month

By 2011, we had a full program running and really let our palates lead us wherever they wanted. There have been some massive hits - the Colombia Lucitana from 2015 had our staff swooning, and we’ve sold out before month’s end more times than I can count.

And to be fair, there have also been one or two controversial, less-popular selections, but we know we can’t please everyone all the time.

That’s part of what makes this series so enjoyable for us at Merlo, the discovery of new and exciting taste profiles from all pockets of the globe, and hopefully it is for you too.

A huge part of our business belongs to our regulars: people we see nearly every day, and cafe owners who have been ordering from us for years, some even from the very beginning.

The size of Merlo, which is what stopped us from being able to buy these small lots in the beginning, has become our greatest strength: we’re able to absorb some of the costs of these boutique lots, and keep the price steady so our customers can try the best coffees available without the financial risk.

This way anyone can try each BoM - as they are affectionately known in-house - every month, and decide whether to stick with it or go back to the house blend, without it costing a bomb.

Making exceptional coffee accessible is one of the great driving forces of the Bean of the Month series, and it’s something we’re really proud of.

Common Ground

The Bean of the Month series is also fun! Learning about the people at the other end of the specialty coffee supply chain and forging those connections is part of what makes working in this business so worthwhile.

From Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, to this year’s Peruvian bear-man folklore, the history and culture of coffee is incredibly rich and rewarding.

It’s a thrill to be able to set aside a month at a time to really celebrate and explore the places and people who grow this thing we all love so much.

Every month we all - staff and customers alike - have something new to talk about, argue over, experiment with and enjoy together.

Merlo wants to be an active participant in helping the wider coffee community thrive. We choose to pay a premium for the best coffee on offer each month, because we believe in the work these farmers and co-ops are doing.

Specialty coffee production is not cheap or easy, and supporting quality, innovation and excellence at the farm level is part of our responsibility as roasters.

Often these co-operatives aim to improve the life in the farming communities: offering medical clinics, accommodation, better rates of pay, childcare and schooling.

Coffee farmer in field

Environmental conservation also becomes a priority, because the people who live on and work the land are able to have a direct say in how it’s cared for.

It’s vital for the coffee industry as a whole that these coffee growing districts are able to preserve the landscape which nourishes these plants, and that coffee growing is a healthy and economically viable career for the generations to come.

Where to from here?

The Bean of the Month series rolls on and we’ve got a few certified bangers locked in for the start of 2023. We’re also looking to expand our offering with a few more limited edition coffees coming your way soon.

Without giving too much away, there will be something from the cloud forests of Costa Rica, a callback to a 2012 Bean of the Month region with brand new processing, and a candy-sweet Nicaraguan.

We’re excited to continue on this ride, and grateful to all of you for coming along.

And thanks for reading!