Bumper Crop from Central America
Overall cup quality is very high this year as the best altitude Central American coffees are now arriving in the United States. The lower grown coffees that arrive earlier in the year are useful as indicators of the cup quality of coming Strictly High Grown coffees, but the lower, milder coffees are good for little else but blending. We don’t buy them, since the slower-maturing coffee cherries at higher altitudes yields more brightness (better concentrations of chlorogenic acids that give the cup a characteristic liveliness) as well as more bean density. Greater density insures the coffees will roast better …and last longer in the green form.
The benchmark Central American for the classic, clean cup profile is Costa Rican La Minita from the Tarrazú region. When most of the excellent mid-crop coffees are in, I like to do a pan-regional cupping using La Minita as the sample coffee to which all others are compared. While a bit unfair (since all cup characters should not be imitative of La Minita) it is a great way to highlight the differences and shifts in various coffee crops for the particular year. This year I was pleasantly surprised that La Minita maintained its dominant position in our cupping results in terms of balanced qualities. But I do not remember a mid-crop cupping where so many coffees challenged the La Minita cup in particular qualities, and excelled.
The Costa Rican Auction Lot Diamante Tarrazu has less body than La Minita but the tangy brightness and volatile aromatics make this cup jump forward in a lineup of classic Costa Rican coffees. The Costa Rican Santa Elena “Miel” is like a brash party guest (seriously) – it has more character, more body, is more honeyed, and has more aftertaste than any other Costa Rican, and the finish is brash, less refined, rustic. That’s because the Miel is a totally nontraditional Costa Rican, processed using the natural-dry Brazil method. It’s proven to be a very controversial coffee among the Homeroast Email List crowd, some swearing by it, others finding it too uncharacteristic for the clean, sweet Costa Rican cup they enjoy.
We include most of our wet-processed Central Americans in the cupping, with really phenomenal results from the Salvadors and Honduras this year, and of course the Guatemalans are an entity unto themselves. But I won’t comment on the comparison of La Minita to those origins here since they are measured mostly by their difference to the Costa Rican benchmark, than similarity. Needless to say, with El Injerto placing 2 lots in the high-bidding Guatemala Auction, and my personal feeling that Injerto is the mildest of the 3 Guatemala Huehuetenango coffees we have, I am confident we have a hell of a good line-up of Guat.s this year!
A Matter of Taste
Finding the coffees you like is no easy task, but the reward is great. I hope our Coffee Cupping Reviews* help you select coffees you might like, but it is going to take some experimentation and a few blunders to flesh out your preferences. And coffee presents some special problems; the tastes are subtle and complex compared to other beverages, and the language to describe them unfamiliar.
The most important way to quickly define your tastes is to keep a coffee log. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy; it could be as simple as tearing the sticker labels off the bags of coffee you like and putting them on a sheet of paper. But keep track of which coffees you liked best and how dark they were roasted when they really impressed you.
When you find a coffee that you really don’t like, consider it a great success! It’s a solid starting point to determine a coffee flavor you don't like, and which coffees to scratch off your list. Perhaps it is “earthy”. You will find this in Sumatra in the form of musty or earthy flavors, in Ethiopians -- but only the dry-processed ones. Look for that word in the cupping reviews and it’s a good clue to avoid that coffee.
Or maybe bright coffees with citrusy acidity are unpleasant to you. Avoid some Kenyas and some “bright” Centrals. The wet-processed Ethiopians like Yirgacheffe are also citrusy. You can see that a taste characteristic is not strictly geographical. If you loved an East African like a Zimbabwe, it doesn’t mean you will love an Ethiopians Harar in the same way, despite them both being African. The difference between Sumatra and Timor is pronounced even though both are Indonesian. Even within a sub-region, primary taste characteristics can be extremely different: a Ugandan is nothing like a neighboring Kenyan. For this reason you find that knowing a little about coffee always seems insufficient given that conventional wisdom is often half-true, and singularities abound!
And remember this: our coffees have character! If it’s a character you like, you’ll be thrilled. If it’s one you don’t, you will know it right away. But that doesn’t mean its a bad coffee. I put a lot of work into cupping coffee from every coffee brokerage I can to find the truly exceptional origins, and from specific lot numbers of the same name to find the best bags. But it’s a committee of one (just me!) that makes cupping decisions. Your results will differ...
If you make your own espresso blends or want to modify one of ours by adding Robusta, read our review for the new Uganda Robusta from Nanga Farms. It ain’t much to look at but it is by far the most interesting cup I have ever had of Robusta. It is a creamy, sweet, and maple syrup-laced cup –and yet it is overlayed with the typical off Robusta taste. Nonetheless, I have never been able to brew a cup of Robusta in a French Press and actually finish the cup! Mind you, we recommend this coffee only for espresso blends, and with 2x the caffeine of Arabica coffee, watch how much you use!
Sweet Maria’s Returns to California
In late August –early September, Maria and Tom and Sweet Maria’s are returning to the San Francisco area, more specifically to the town between Oakland and Berkeley called Emeryville. We plan to close for 2 weeks for the move, although I can’t tell you the specific dates yet. Our new location on 64th Street will offer more space for our green coffee (and us!), and great proximity to the best coffee warehouses and brokers in the nation. We plan to have a customer appreciation sale, but please check our web site since dates are not yet chosen.
Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 6/25/02:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page! http://www.sweetmarias.com
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rican AuctionLot-DiamanteTarrazu $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Costa Rican Dota Tarrazu $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Costa Rican Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Costa Rican Saint Elena Tarrazu "Miel" $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes '02 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemala Finca El Injerto '02 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemala Huehuetenango -Finca Huixoc $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemala Org/FT Huehuetenango $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Guatemala Finca La Laguna Bourbon $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Honduras SHG Organic Marcala $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican Chiapas Strictly Altura '02 $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican SHG Organic/FT Loxicha $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Mexican Oaxaca Pluma El Olivo $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Nicaragua SHG Angelina Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Nicaragua Organic/FT Segovia '02 $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Panama Finca Hartmann "Songbird" $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Panama Boquete -Finca La Berlina $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Panama Boquete -Finca Maunier $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
El Salvador SHG St. Adelaida Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Organic - Fazenda Cachoeira $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Brazil Cooxupe Prima Qualita $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Brazil Auction Winner-Vargem Grande $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Colombian Alto Gigante Maragogype $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Colombian FNC Antioquia Peaberry $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Colombian Org. Bucaramanga Bourbon $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Colombian Organic Mesa De Los Santos $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
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 Harar Longberry Lot 2956 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Ethiopian Sidamo DP '02 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe -Lot 957 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AA Karani Auction Lot '02 $5.75 $10.93 $25.01 $88.55
Kenya AA Karumandi Auction Lot '02 $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
Tanzanian Southern Peaberry $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Uganda Budadiri AA-S Specialty $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.90 $15.01 $36.74 $126.40
Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40
Yemen Mokha Sana'ani -Haimi $7.20 $13.68 $33.48 $115.20
Zambian AA Lupili '02 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Zimbabwe AA+ Salimba '02 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar Coehlo's Gold $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Java Govt. Estate -Jampit '02 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sulawesi Toraja Gr. 1 '02 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 '02 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Timor Organic Aifu '01 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Bali Shinzan Grade 1 $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86
Hawaii Kona Greenwell Farms '02 $15.00 $28.80 $69.75 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona- Purple Mountain Farm $15.80 $30.34 $73.47 5 lb limit
Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA '02 $10.90 $20.93 $49.60 5 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
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Colombian MC Decaf -Narino del Abuelo $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Colombian CO-2 Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Costa Rican SHB Natural Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Ethiopian Natural Decaf- Ghimbi $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 Coffein $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85
Mexican Cepco Co-op Natural Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican Chiapas Org/FT SWP Decaf $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Sumatra Mandheling Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Mexican Washed Robusta $3.80 $7.22 $16.53 5 lb limit
Uganda Robusta -Nyana Farms $4.30 $8.36 $19.14 5 lb limit