Tiny Joy

Jan - Feb 2008: Quakers and Coffee; Travelogue to the Max; New Espresso Monkey Shirts
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Coffee cross section

Quakers and Coffee
Quakers, aside from being a conscientious religious society, are also the designation for a coffee defect. It sounds more like an insult than an homage, and I am sure it’s time to find a better name for this particular coffee problem. (I know for sure that if there was a defective bean called a “Catholic” I would be a little insulted). But the devilish coffee trader from ages ago that came up with this term is a bit clever. Quakers are easily identified by those who roast dry-processed coffees; they are the tan beans that fail to take on the color of their neighbors. In other words, they are resisters, conscientious or not, but they resist the roast nonetheless, just as someone might resist war, i.e. a Quaker! So perhaps it’s an offhand compliment, or just a bad analogy (roasting as war?!?). I have no idea if my analogy is correct; I’m just a little proud of myself for figuring that one out. While it’s easy to spot quakers in roasted coffee, they are not so easy to identify in green coffee. In green form, you can find quakers only by looking carefully for a slightly shriveled surface texture and a too-green, almost shiny hue. Quakers are under-ripe beans, coffee cherries that were picked immaturely. A roasted quaker does not have the chemical compounds to color as a mature harvested coffee bean would (that is, one that comes from a ripe, red coffee cherry on the tree). One issue is that it does not have the acid balance, proteins, lipids or starches that are converted to sugars when heat is applied. Since there are no sugars to caramelize, “browning” of the coffee (a result of something called the Maillard reaction) cannot occur. Lastly, the physical makeup of the bean lacks integrity. The cellular walls are thin, weak, lack cellulose and the immature seed cannot acquire and transfer heat properly. So why do we find quakers most often in dry-processed coffees? Does the presence of quakers mean a coffee is bad? If you recall, wet-processing involves harvesting coffee cherry from the tree, removing the skin, fermenting the seed (inside it’s parchment shell and coated with a sticky fruit pulp layer), then washing it with water to remove now-fermented, broken-down fruit. When you wash this coffee, traditionally in long concrete channels, the seeds from immature fruit will float, and is easily skimmed off the top of the water. Actually, if we rewind to the first step of the wet-process, much of the unripe, green coffee cherry doesn’t even make it to the washing channels. When you remove the skin, the seeds are pushed out of red ripe cherry easily, while it is difficult to de-skin
unripe green cherry. (Imagine the difference between peeling a ripe orange versus a green one). The machine allows only the seed to pass so much of the whole unripe cherry is removed at the get-go. Now consider dry-process coffees. In this simple method, whole, intact cherry is laid out in the sun (on patios, raised screens as in Ethiopia, or rooftops as in Yemen) to sun-dry. In some climates, the coffee can even dry on the tree, and is then picked (some Brazils and India coffees). After a couple weeks of drying, the whole dried fruit, now a raisiny brown-to-black hue, is ready to be processed. In one step, a huller removes the skin, dried mucilage fruit, and parchment shell. Then the coffee is visually sorted to remove defects. So what’s missing there? There is no opportunity to separate the coffee with water, to remove unripe “floaters.” And as noted, quakers are quite difficult to spot visually once the coffee is dry. It is possible to use densometric sorting at that point, since quakers are “light” beans, and do not have the same density in their physical structure as ripe coffee. But in many countries, the density table (called an Oliver table for the maker) would break the budget, or is simply not a part of the local tradition. Consider Yemen, where it is practically an obligation for the exporter to hire as many people as possible to hand-sort the coffee; it provides a lot of jobs! There are fantastic dry-process coffees that will have the occasional quaker. Without culling them, they add a dry peanut flavor to the cup, a tightness in the finish, some astringency. Culling them out changes the cup, and sometimes over-culling can remove some of the character you might expect from a coffee, say a Harar. When we roast a dry-processed lot that has some quakers (most recently, our excellent Ethiopia Sidamo Special Selection), we remove the absolute lightest beans by hand. The variation in bean-to-bean color in a dry process lot is normal due to the primitive processing, and part of its character. If you start to get overzealous in post-roast preparation, you might find you lose more than you gain.

Travelogue to the Max
An apology for the ‘80s title; (I blame a So. Cal. childhood for this). What I am referring to is my somewhat excessive Yemen travelogue of 380 photos plus a small essay. I traveled for 10 days, and then it took another 10 days to deal with the many hundreds of pictures and assemble them into web pages! Anyway, there are some interesting shots, and I learned so much about this amazing place, the first commercial coffee origin. (Coffee is native to the Kaffa region of Ethiopia, and was planted all along the slave route to the Harar region, but was first grown commercially in Yemen, just across the Red Sea). As an outcome of this trip, we have been cupping some very interesting samples from old and new Yemeni regions, from my new contacts there. We are also trying to get a unique Yemeni tea called Keshir. Is Sweet Maria’s going “tea” on you … no! But this is traditional Yemeni tea you brew from the skin of the dry-processed coffee fruit. So in fact it is “Coffee Tea.” Hopefully the USDA and Department of Homeland Security will let us import a small amount of this so we can share it with you all! Remember, it takes months from the time I go to an origin country and cup lots, until the time the coffee arrives, so be patient. New Yemeni coffees start to arrive in early-to-mid February. Next up in January, a trip to India to find some of the tallest coffee trees in the world, the unique type that is neither Arabica nor Robusta, but Coffea Liberica. These trees must be harvested with tall ladders, hence the awkward claim that this is the sole coffee harvested exclusively by men. –Tom

New Espresso Monkey Shirts
We are trying something different: reverse espresso monkey shirts, crème-colored ink on dark brown … real coffee colors. We are also making toddler-size one-pieces, as many of you have requested. I know our little Ben (1 year on January 20!) will like them too. -Maria

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: info@sweetmarias.com

Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee
Offering List
as of Jan 8, 2008 – there are many,
many incoming lots weekly. Check the web site – this list is
certainly out-of-date!

Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Costa Rica Coop Dota Dry-Process $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Costa Rica Dota Peaberry Special $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $42.33 $78.54
Costa Rica La Horqueta "Top 50" $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $45.65 $84.70
Costa Rica Tarrazu -La Minita $6.80 $12.92 $29.58 $56.44 $104.72
Costa Rica Naranjo Caracol Peaberry $4.95 $9.41 $21.53 $41.09 $76.23
El Salvador - Yellow Bourbon Cultivar $5.65 $10.74 $24.58 $46.90 $87.01
Guatemala Antigua Retana Yellow Bourbon $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $57.27 $106.26
Guatemala- Finca San José Ocaña