Tiny Joy

July - Aug 2001: An Excellent Cup of Fair Coffee, A Foreign Matter, Malabar Gold Shipments from Late ‘00, Coffee Buying Tips
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An Excellent Cup of Fair Coffee
I gave a little phone interview last week to an AP reporter about the current state of the coffee market (exactly why she called a small-fry like me, I am not sure). I tried to explain why the coffee market is hurting farmers, and I listed what I consider 4 of the biggest problems in order of importance:

• There are way too many coffee farmers in the world and too much coffee on the market… too much bad coffee, that is…
• Vietnam and Brazil flood the market with low-quality, low-price coffee;
• We have a market where top quality African or Indonesian Central American often gets traded on the same cost basis as moldy Vietnam Robusta;
• And of the least effect is the fact that coffee middle-people and retailers float artificially high prices when the market dips.

After talking at length about the subject, the issue of Fair Trade certification, market-independent coffees, how the market originated, etc., she said, “Okay, what I will be using a quote that ‘coffee middle-people and retailers gouge consumers’.” Ugh…
It’s convenient to believe that greed and profiteering are to blame, but hurling invective at your local roaster is not going to make the coffee trade fair to farmers! I started my own coffee business (after years of managing stores and roasting coffee for others) at a time when the market was quite high. In late ‘97 the New York C Index that determines arabica coffee prices was edging upward of $2.00/lb, yet to hit its peak, and prices for the super-premium coffees was astronomical. And here we are 2 years later and the C has hit a record low. What does this mean?

Prices for great coffee are sometimes set against the C price, but I have never paid that for coffee …nor do I want to! In fact, there are huge premiums for estate coffees, certified organic and particular that guarantee consistent and fair prices to the farmer. The weak market has influenced some prices dramatically. Two years ago I paid (and you paid) $2 more per Lb. for auction lot Kenyas, this year the price is downright cheap. What you pay directly reflects what I pay, so I am getting prices of .30 less for origins and you can see from our prices this time last year, that’s about the discount you get.
Is this good for farmers? No, it is horrible for farmers, especially the most quality-oriented. Frankly, I don't care what I pay for coffee as long as it is good. Ridiculous and unwarranted prices only pertain to ridiculous coffee like Jamaican and Kopi Luwak. If a great cup can be had for 60¢ or $1 more per lb., I will pay that without hesitation, and I think many of you will too. That’s good, because without people like us lending some stability to the premium-priced coffee market, there would be no quality coffee ...it would simply not be worth it to the grower. This has happened before: farmers simply walk away from their coffee farms, allowing the trees to get choked out by more vigorous plants, and dooming the consumer to cheap Brazilian coffee and new virulent strains of disease-resistant arabica. Maybe this is the shakedown that needs to happen, if indeed the case is that poor quality land is being used to make poor quality coffee.

What is the answer? I agree with those that want to institute a minimum price on the C, something around $1.20. Many people have discussed this as an insurance policy for farmers, and since the actual premiums for cup quality will remain, as they do now, we wouldn’t be doing harm to the great cup we love while insuring a decent existence for those who make it all possible. We also are Fair Trade certified by Transfair, we buy Auction Lot coffees and market-independent coffees (the vast majority of our offerings fall into this category), and we donate on a per Lb. basis back to organizations like Coffee Kids, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Red Cross.

A Foreign Matter
There is a “urban legend” among coffee roasters that a guy had a bullet explode in his roaster a few years back. I can’t find anyone to really verify this story, but finding a bullet in our coffee would certainly provide a thrill here at the shop, since the most exciting thing we have found is some sheets of unfinished Javanese school work.

Foreign matter can sometimes be found in the best of coffees, and its expected in any natural, dry-processed coffees. If you get 5 Lbs. of Harar you will probably find a couple small rocks in there. Kenya has some bits of parchment coffee, and some elephant ears. Black beans are found in Chiapas and the Huehuetenango from the 97/98 crop, along with a few pods. Small sticks and pieces of basket are in the Yemen. Seeds that look like they were flattened by a wheel (and they probably were!) are in the Sumatras. None of these are detrimental to the cup or we wouldn’t carry it (in our coffee descriptions I noted that Chiapas and Peru might have 1 seed per lb. that you want to remove). Only very small, withered, very black seeds should be removed. If you pull out every seed with an abnormality you could easily be damaging the cup quality! (I often site the “triple-picked SF Prep” polished Sumatra sample I have occasionally cupped that is DOA in the cup!) Obvious foreign matter should be removed, but wont hurt much either. Even the occasional rock is usually of a very soft variety and steel grinding burrs are unharmed by them. In 2 years I have had 3 metallic items (2 nails, one lump of metal) and those ARE damaging to grinders! Coffee is meticulously hand picked, prepped and hand sorted, but occasional interlopers are found. It’s just testament to its colorful origins, and not a final determination of quality.

I have to admit, finding odd things in coffee is actually quite fun. What have I found? Not much really. I found a completely intact Sumatran bee in the Mandheling. Its wings were outstretched and I couldn’t believe this large, delicate thing was intact with the weight of all that coffee on it! I found a bottlecap once. Maybe I should buy lower grade coffee: another roaster in Columbus found bullet casings, and hunks of cement! For clarification of what the above-mentioned terms (like black bean etc. ) refer to, read the article on green coffee quality at www.sweetmarias.com/articles.html

Malabar Gold Shipments from Late ‘00
We sent out some mistaken Malabar Gold Espresso Blend on several dates, and we want to replace any coffee we sent that was wrong! We have sent email to all people who bought Malabar Gold early this year, so everyone who bought any in 2001 who is affected has been contacted. But there are a few people who purchased it around 11/10 -11/20/00 that we don’t have email records for …so if you have or remember getting some odd-looking Malabar Gold in late ‘00, please look at this web page: www.sweetmarias.com/malabar.gold.html

Coffee-Buyers Tip: Guatemalas are excellent this year. If you like bright coffees, try the Guatemalan Huixoc Huehuetenango when it arrives! Tom will be visiting Huehuetenango, Antigua and Fraijanes this August.

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
9 E. 2nd Ave Columbus Ohio 43201
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: info@sweetmarias.com

Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 7/12/01:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page! http://sweetmarias.com/prod.greencoffee.shtml
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rican Dota Conquistador $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Costa Rican Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $7.10 $13.49 $31.60 $113.60
Costa Rican Tarrazu-Tres Rios $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemalan Acatenango -Naranjo Kikiya $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemalan Antigua -Bella Carmona $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemalan Org. Atitlan -La Voz FT $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Guatemalan Org. Huehuetenango '01 FT $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Mexican Oaxaca Pluma -El Olivo Farm $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican Org. San Augustin Loxicha $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Mexican Oaxaca San Pablo Becafisa $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Nicaragua SHG La Illusion '01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Panama Auction Winner -Finca Lerida $7.40 $14.06 $32.19
Panama Auction Winner -Finca Maunier $5.80 $11.02 $25.23
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Mogiani Bourbon -Safira $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Brazil Organic -Blue de Brasil $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Brazil Cerrado-Monte Carmelo $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Colombian Popayan Supremo $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Nariño Del Abuelo $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Peru Org/FT Chanchamayo La Florida $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Ghimbi DP '01 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Ethiopian Harar Horse Lot 10-024-49 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Lot 10-024-038 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AB Gaturiri Farm Auction Lot'01 $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86
Kenya AA Tinganga Farm Auction Lot'01 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Tanzanian Northern Peaberry 00-01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Tanzanian AA Flatbean '01 $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Uganda Organic Bugisu A $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.90 $15.01 $36.74 $126.40
Yemen Mokha Mattari $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00
Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40
Yemen Mokha Sanani '01 $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar AA $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Aged Java - Old Brown '97 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Java Govt. Estate Blawan $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea Mile High Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea Organic AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sulawesi Toraja Gr.1 00 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sumatra Lintong Grade 1 '01 $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 '01 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Sumatra Lake Tawar 18+ $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Sumatra Organic Gayoland '01 FT $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Aged Sumatra Mandheling '98 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Timor Organic Maubese 00-01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Hawaii Kona -Kowali Blue Mountain $15.90 $30.53 $73.94 $279.84
Hawaii Kona XF-Purple Mountain Farm $15.90 $30.53 $73.94 $279.84
Maui Kaanapali Moka '01 $11.20 $21.50 $52.08 5 lb limit
Hawaii Molakai Malulani '01 $6.90 $13.11 $32.09 5 lb limit
Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA $10.90 $20.71 $50.69 5 lb limit
Isle of Saint Helena '01 Crop $23.30 $44.74 2 lb limit
SM's Moka Kadir Blend $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
SM's Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM's Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
SM's Decaf Espresso Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
SM's French Roast Blend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Malabar Gold Espresso Blend $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Colombian MC Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Colombian CO-2 Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Costa Rican SHB Natural Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Guatemalan SHB Natural Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Indonesian Komodo Blend Org SWP D $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Kenya MC Decaf -German KVW $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85
Mexican Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Sumatra Org.GayoMtn SWP Decaf $6.30 $11.97 $27.41 $97.02
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Kaapi Royale Robusta $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Monsooned Robusta AA $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Java Washed Robusta $4.30 $8.17 $18.71