Sweet Maria's Weblog

Central America Travelogues, Coffee Cultivar Photoset

Coffea Liberica Coffee Cultivars: Here is a collection of images from my travels of many different types of varietals. I thought it would be interesting to pull all these together into one page ... well, 3 pages since there are so many of them. Central America Travelogues and pictures ...Ben and Maria met me in Costa Rica for a Central America Family Coffee get-together, and then we all went to the Best of Panama competition in Boquete. During and after the 2009 El Salvador Cup of Excellence, I visited some of our important coffee sources, such as Aida Batlle's Kilimanjaro farm, and Vickie Dalton's Finca Matalapa. Here's some photos of my El Salvador Travels . And here are the El Salvador Cup of Excellence 2009 photos. Woo!

the SM Forum is up

We are launching our new Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting Forum in advance of the long weekend. It is meant to supplement the email home roast list and to preserve the good discussions we have on focused topics - discussions that are useful for the new roaster and the experienced roaster alike. Please take a look at the forum, sign up so you can secure your username, and let us know what you think! -Tom

Gesha - is it all that?

I cupped the auction samples for the Tuesday auction of Panama Esmeralda Especial, their Gesha (or Geisha as everyone else writes it) lot selections. I guess being the most celebrated coffee of a celebrated cultivar has its downside, and it's easy to take shots at Esmeralda Gesha when it isn't anything but a 95+ point coffee. But the lots this year showed the full range of qualities, which oddly ended up ranked in order from lot 1 to 7 as they are in the auction. 1-4 lots are solid coffees, 5-7 are second tier... well, 7 is maybe even third tier Gesha with muddled character. But it begs the question; how good is great Gesha and how good is average, lower-grown Gesha. It's a question that came up often at the Best of Panama competition (see my video listed below). Do we compare Gesha only to itself, where the lower grown lots suffer in scores, or globally to all other coffees, where even the lower grown lots score well, be they a bit murky and ill-defined in cup character? Should we compare them to fine washed Ethiopia coffees, which bear some resemblance in terms of flavor (jasmine, berry, bergamont, light body, etc)? And this leads to the question of how to price Gesha. Is it 3x better than a great Yirgacheffe, and therefore deserving triple the price? How should a mediocre Gesha be priced, when it is still a very interesting cup ... and doesn't that price encourage everyone to plant this type, even when they have no hope of growing great Gesha? And how will it be priced in the future when everybody and their uncle grows it? (They already do - wait a couple years for all this Gesha to come into production!) Did anyone else see the NY Times article about the P'ur Tea price bubble in China and think not a little about the Gesha bubble? All I can say is that the 95+ point Gesha of last year does not exist, I believe, in the small harvest of this crop. Sure, the Esmeralda is great, but is it like the #2 lot in last years auction, or the #3 peaberry? Wasn't the #6 lot we offered at around $10 last season still a really nice cup, be it not the best Gesha ever? It gives me pause, since I am sitting here at home on the weekend trying to brew the #1 lot in the Tuesday auction, trying to get a great result in Vacuum pot, Aeropress, Pour-over, and ... well... it's a nice coffee, but not the 93.5 I gave it in my cupping room Friday. So it's not just about asking whether the marketplace should encourage this, should pay this, should endorse it. I am asking myself how I should behave as well, and what best serves our customers. I don't want to be part of any bubble, to wake up some morning and regret being involved in hype. I am not saying the Gesha phenomenon is that, but it's a good question that I need to ask myself, and I hope others do as...

Dropping the Kenya coffee bomb ... new crop is here.

It's a fantastic day ... the day I get to announce that new crop Kenya coffees have arrived. And we are dropping this Kenya bomb to maximum effect: THREE new auction lot peaberry coffees all at once, heralding in what I think is an epic year of great Kenya coffees. Kenya Nyeri Peaberry -Mutwewathi Factory, a floral cup with apple-apricot compote and pink-grapefruit flavors. Kenya Kirinyaga Peaberry -Gakuyu-ini Factory, a fruit-bomb with complex lemon flavors followed by raisin and grape when it cools. Kenya Kiambu Peaberry -Ndumberi Coop, the cup is a delicate balance between bright fruit and refined sugar, with a pepper accent. Click-through to the full reviews for more cupping notes and farm facts.

Coffee Cultivar Conversation in Panama

At the Best of Panama competition, a very interesting conversation about coffee varietals ... and a lousy looking video. Sorry about the lameness - I was more engrossed in the conversation than making it look good.