Tiny Joy

Mar - Apr 2003: Home Roasting and Freshness; It's Sumatra Time!; It's Nice to Be Near the Port…; …and It's Nice to Be Near the Brokers…

It's Sumatra Time!

Coffee is a crop. It may seem odd to think of coffee this way since it is also a dried seed from a small fruiting tree. And we don't think about the crop cycle of other dried seeds on our kitchen shelves. But there is a particular window of time when a new crop of coffee arrives at the Oakland port (a mere 5 minutes from our shop) and all the good coffee buyers are on the hunt for the best lot.

In general, the first coffees that arrive from a growing region are not the best, since these usually represent lower-elevation trees. (Coffee cherries ripen first at the lower elevations, and these coffees never have the brightness of the higher grown, denser, slow-maturing seeds). And sometimes the last coffees to come in are ones that have been held up at port or in a warehouse somewhere, getting the flavor steamed out of them. It's the mid-crop coffees that usually represent the best farms from the higher locales. Right about now it's Sumatra time, and a handful of recent lots of Grade One, Dry-Process Mandhelings have been simply outstanding.

We will be offering these by particular lot number. Lot 4283 is on the current list. It looks a bit rough but has the most wet-humus, earthy oomph of any Sumatra I have cupped this year, but without tasting like there's a dirt clod steeping in the cup (and that's a hard balance to strike!)

Lot 8809 is a beautifully prepared (that means it has been extra carefully hand-sorted) green coffee with a dark opalescent color, and has a straight-ahead base-note Sumatra earthiness with fruited bright notes and a bittersweet chocolate finish.

Lot 4365 is a classic, old-school Sumatra with floral aromatics and a gigantic, booming cup character: great body, spiced, mossy, deep.

Of course, there's also the premium Sumatras, the Triple Pick's and Super-Preps. These are coffees that have gone through extra passes at the hand-sorting tables to remove defective seeds. It's risky because the coffee ends up costing a bit more, and it is possible to "over-prepare" a Sumatra, to "prep" the character right out of the cup. But you can also create a stellar coffee, a butterscotch roast taste, exotic spiced fruit flavors, and the coffee can be roasted lighter than other Sumatras to underscore these qualities. A poor quality Mandheling will taste like dirt and mildew if roasted too light, and this is why a lot of roasters hide these defects behind a dark roast disguise; Vienna or French roast.

A Triple Pick roasted to a City stage, and rested a day or two is something to behold, since the whole top end of the cup profile is missing from heavily-roasted batches. This year's big bean Iskandar is outstanding, and we are looking at new crop samples of the Batak, Lintong, Tawar, and Karo Highland to find the best from those coffees. So think about this as a good time to experience the Indonesian coffees, and be prepared for the April and May arrivals of the Central Americans. Judging from pre-shipment samples of Chiapas, and Huehuetenango, there is great promise.

It's Nice to Be Near the Port…

Besides paying quadruple the rent and $2.15 a gallon for gas, I knew there would be some other benefits for moving the business to California (well, besides the 68 degree days of February). There are some remarkable advantages to being in the center of the main Specialty coffee port in the United States. The first has been picking up small lots of coffee directly from the warehouse, often within days of its arrival through the mouth of the Golden Gate. Spending time at the huge coffee warehouses at the Port of Oakland puts the coffee trade in perspective for me. On any given day I see small mixed lots of coffee being put on pallets for a multitude of small, local roasters. Next to those I see complete container loads transferred out of their steel vaults fresh off the ocean-going ships, and thrown onto pallets by 2 guys with special bag hooks for hands. (Yes, every container is unloaded by hand since they are not on pallets within the container. This is because a) space is money and b) wood pallets will not pass USDA inspection.) These 250-300 bag lots are often immediately loaded onto 53' rigs for delivery to a big roasting business, some running several 4 bag roasters (500+ Lbs. per batch!), as opposed to the local guy with a 14 or 24 Lb. roaster. I see the better coffees going out to the little guys who are happy with smaller lots …and both decent and crappy coffee tagged for delivery to the huge companies. (Oh, why not name names: Sara Lee buying the moderately good Brazil Oberon, but a full container of Vietnam Robusta with about 50% below-grade, black beans being shipped out to Superior Coffee -ironic, eh?)

… and It's Nice to Be Near the Brokers …

The other great benefit to life in Coffeeville -I mean Emeryville - is to be surrounded by roasting companies and a host of coffee brokers. It's hard to describe how a good relationship with a broker works, because it's a lot more than the money. I suppose it is like any business relationship, where who you know, and who looks out for you counts. There is a real competition for the best lots of coffee, and when they are identified, the sell like wildfire. As a buyer, you need to always be ready to strike. It can't matter so much if you need it or not -if it's good you have to get it immediately. Sometimes this is an SAS sale -Subject to Approval of Sample. This is when a coffee is yet to be shipped from the origin country, but the sample is so good that it will be sold out long before it hits the Port of Oakland. But once it arrives, if the actual lot sample is not as promising as the pre-ship sample was, then you can simply reject it. The other way to buy is Spot, meaning that the coffee is in the warehouse. These sell out in a day or two if the coffee comes in as a sleeper, an unexpected winner. There's basically not a day that I don't talk to brokers, and being close at hand means that I am in closer contact than was possible in Columbus Ohio!

But the best asset of being in Coffeeville has been cupping all the Kenya Auction Lots and, basically, bidding directly in the auctions for the lot. That means I can pick and chose from over a hundred of the top Kenya coffees in the auctions, and we can buy the entire output from these small farms and co-ops. The lots are often just 20-30 bags, and when they are gone, they are gone. The competition for these can be fierce late in the season, but we acted early and have already bought three outstanding lots: Mika AA, Rugeju AA, and Mbwinjeru AA. Look for them in April or so. In the meantime, our Kiawamururu and Kenya AA Top cup right there with the best of them.

Sweet Maria’s Coffee Inc.
1455 64th Street, Emeryville CA 94608
web: www.sweetmarias.com
Email: Contact us

Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 2/28/03:
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 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

Guatemala - Arte Maya de Café $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Guatemala Coban Tanchi $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Guatemala Org/FT Huehuetenango $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Mexican Chiapas Strictly Altura '02 $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican Oaxaca - Fino Rojas $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Nicaragua Matagalpa -Carlos Fonseca $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68

Nicaragua Organic/FT Segovia '02 $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Panama Boquete -Finca La Berlina $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

El Salvador SHG Salaverria Bourbon $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76

South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Bolivian Organic -Aecar Coop $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Brazil Organic Peaberry -Blue de Brasil $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Brazil Fazenda Vargem Grande $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Brazil Cooxupe Prima Qualita $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 $61.60

Brazil Organic/FT- Poco Fundo Coop $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Colombian Huila Supremo Lot 4286 $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76

Colombian Narino Vintage $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Colombian Organic Mesa de Los Santos $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Colombian Organic Quindio $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Peru Org-FT Chanchamayo $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Ethiopian Harar Bagersh $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Ethiopian Sidamo DP $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Ethiopian Wet-Process Sidamo $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Kenya AA Kiawamururu Auction Lot '02 $5.75 $10.93 $25.01 $88.55

Kenya AA Top $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Tanzanian Southern Peaberry $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Uganda AA Mbale Bugisu $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68

Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.80 $14.82 $36.27 $124.80

Yemen Mokha Haimi $7.20 $13.68 $33.48 $115.20

Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40

Zimbabwe AA+ Salimba $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Indian Monsooned Malabar-Coehlo'sGold $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Indian Pearl Mountain Peaberry $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Java Government Estate -Blawan $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Papua New Guinea -Arokara Estate $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Papua New Guinea -Kinjibi Est Peaberry $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Papua New Guinea -Purosa Estate $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Sulawesi Toraja Gr. 1 -Lot 1942 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Sulawesi Aged Toraja $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40

Aged Sumatra Mandheling $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32

Sumatra Triple-Pick -Blue Batak $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Sumatra Mandheling DP -SUPER PREP $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Timor Organic/FT Maubesse $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Hawaii Kona-Greenwell Farms '02 $15.00 $28.80 $69.75 5 lb limit

Hawaii Kona- Purple Mountain Estate $16.10 $30.91 $74.87 5 lb limit

Hawaii Kauai Estate Peaberry No. 1 $6.45 $12.26 $28.06 $99.33

Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA $10.40 $19.76 $48.36 5 lb limit

SM's Moka Kadir Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

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 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

SM's Liquid Amber Espresso Blend $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

SM's French Roast Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

SM's Roasted French Chicory $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

African Highland WP Decaf Blend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Brazil Prima Qualita WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Colombian Santa Isabella WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Ethiopian WP Decaf -Sidamo DP $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Guatemala WP Decaf -Injertal Estate $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Kenya MC Decaf -German KVW $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85

Mexican Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76

Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Sumatra WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Uganda Robusta -Nanga Farms $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 5 lb limit

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