Sweet Maria's Weblog

Peru, Bali, Sumatra

We have several new arrivals. Peru FTO San Ignacio Cajamarca is here, balanced, sweet, with milk chocolate roast tones and soft pear-like fruit notes. Bali Organic "Blue Krishna" Kintamani is quite different from our last lot; it is a wet-processed coffee with a cleaner cup profile and more high-toned flavors overall. And Sumatra Takengon Classic returns, the coffee we formerly called Classic Mandheling, with that brutish, low-acid, heavy-bodied cup, spice, ripe fruit, and a dark tonal range.

Roast Pairing #3: Fruity or Fruited?

In some coffee taster's lexicon, "fruity" means the coffee is tainted with fruit, and "fruited" means a coffee is graced by positive fruit notes. We don't exactly see the difference in terms of these two words, but the question of fruit flavors emerging in a coffee context is critical. Is it a good quality? Is it fresh, aromatic, sweet fruit? Is it ripe, or is it over-ripe, fermenty, vinegary fruit? And there's a side argument as well: did the fruit flavors come from well-prepared coffee, or did it emerge in a process where the coffee had too much contact with the mucilage of the coffee cherry. (This might happen in over-fermenting, in a hybrid process such as Indonesia wet-hulling, or in poorly executed dry-processing). Here we have an example of the wet-hulled Flores, and the dry-processed Bonko Black Sun of Ethiopia. Now obviously, since these are coffees we offer here at Sweet Maria's, we have decided these are both POSITIVE fruit-laden coffees. We want to compare the nature of the fruits in these, and how they come out against the backdrop of other flavors, which are very different in these two lots. To preserve the maximum fruit in the cup, these were both roasted to City+ (medium) ... the Flores to 430f and the Bonko to a mere 423f. The fruit of the Flores appears in a low acid context, and the roast flavor from the lighter roast is more "nut and mild caramel" than the chocolate bittersweets that would emerge if we took it to 440f or so. It's a slightly pulpy fruit, not so aromatic, a little flat (is that the expression of the low acidity though? I think so). The Ethiopia Bonko Black Sun has a more sweet, jammy fruited aromatic. Still, this more articulate and higher toned fruit (against a more acidic backdrop) is on the rustic end ... this is a ripe fruitiness. It's a bit winey too, but vinegary wine? No! Of these two, I would say the Flores Manggarai is more edgy, more fruity rather than fruited, to use other peoples language. Both of these fruity coffees derive from processing, but not mis-processing. And both do not fall into the category of fermenty, vinegar or sour rotten fruit. Believe me, I have cupped a lot of those, and am happy to spare you the pain. (But... our next "Thumbs Down" selection will be a fermenty Ethiopia Dry-Process coffee, so if you want to experience a coffee that has "crossed the line", check back in a month or so.)

A foot in the holiday door jamb ...

The door is closing on holiday ordering, but I must extend a proverbial foot into the jamb and add these new coffees:
  • El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro; I was trying to stash this vacuum packed gem for late season, but there has been too much demand. If you know this special coffee from years past, all I can say is it's fantastic once again, many say better than last year.
  • Colombia "Los Pijaos de Tolima" (3 Star); a blend that we build one tiny lot at a time through ourdirect trade program. Tolimas have been consistently my favorite Colombias in recent harvests
  • Colombia Organic "Union de Nariño" (3 Star); our first certified organic Farm Gate coffee from Colombia, built from micro-lots in the town of La Union. Both these lots were shipped vacuum packed, and are vibrantly fresh.
  • Kenya AB Auction Lot #768 -Rukira; Our very last main crop auction lot Kenya until new crop, vivid fruits, and mercifully moderate acidity.
  • Sumatra Onan Ganjang Cultivar; A specific type of coffee shrub from the Lintong area, this was something I found on my recent trip there. It has a classic cup, intense, brutish, potent ... and is quite different from other Lintong coffees.
  • Espresso Workshop #1 - The Ophiolite Blend; I am really excited about this blend, and our new espresso approach. We are dividing our blends into "Standards", blends we maintain consistently, and these Espresso Workshop "editions", things I have hammered out in the cupping lab above the offices here at Sweet Maria's. These are lot-specific offerings, meaning that when the particular coffees in the mix are out, the blend "edition" is retired. What's an ophiolite? Ask Wikipedia ... or just read the review to see why I chose a geologic term... Tom
  • Roasted Pairings; Ethiopia Vs. Kenya

    Our final pre-holiday roast session is a head-to-head battle: which is the brightest, most dynamic, sweetest, most attractive coffee in Africa. How do the clean, vivid wet-process Ethiopia coffees stack up against the ripe fruit-bomb Kenyas? For this I chose the latest arrivals, both stellar wet-process lots: Ethiopia Organic Wet-Process Kebado and Kenya Auction Lot 738 -Marua Peaberry. Both roasts were quite light to maximize the intensity of the bright end of the spectrum. Ethiopia was roasted to a mere 420f using a slow warm-up profile with first crack ending at 415 or so. I think we can call this a true City roast, and a good one at that, with no bready or grainy light roast flavors. Marua had less mositure content and was roasted carefully to 380, temperature dropped to ensure entering 1st crack slowly, and finished at 426f, a City-City+ roast. Interestingly, the Kebado is one of our vacuum-pack projects, shipped in boxes from Ethiopia. It definitely had more mositure in the coffee and needed more time in the early part of the roast, whereas Kenya is a typical jute (well, sisal in this case) coffee, shipped in fiber bags. I noted that the Kenya 1st crack was at 398, a little early, and Ethiopia Kebado was at 406f. Since cross-origin cuppings are something I do nearly every day, the interesting differences in these 2 lots isn't as dramatic to me; what strikes me in cupping these side by side is how wonderfully aromatic they BOTH are. Kebado's citric and floral aromas are stunning; Marua fills the nose with ripe, red fruits, slightly winey in character. It's interesting to compare the Ethiopia's Meyer Lemon sweetness, with a slight rindy accent, to the slightly deeper tonality of the Kenya fruits. In general, I feel the Kebado is closer to perfection (in the review I call it a competition-winning type coffee), but these are definitely 2 very, very special lots, and I hope they spark some commentary, and inspire a few holiday smiles in your world... -Tom

    Sumatra Coffee: Harvest and Processing

    Okay - I think it looks a lot better on Face Book, especially by following the link to the larger frame size This is a longer video compiled from clips shot in North Sumatra (Lintong, Berastagi, Sidikalang, Lake Toba Dolok Sanggul etc) and from the Aceh district (Bener Mariah, Lake Tawar, Takengon, Gayo areas). I focus on wet-hulling, called Giling Basah in Bahasa language. This method produces that characteristic Indonesia coffee flavor profile, but also involves risks to the cup quality. I am trying to make a higher quality copy because some of the smaller titles are hard to read. You might need to watch this twice... -Tom