Sweet Maria's Weblog

early morning ethiopia

It's way, way to early to be awake, but it's way too hard to sleep. The problem with traveling to Africa or Indonesia is you are totally flipped, time-zone wise. Nothing seems right, and I am not especially good with time zone changes. I brought this second hand book with me, The Devil's Cup, a coffee travelogue with lots of neat information (not all of it accurate - is Harar where  Robusta "evolved" into Arabica coffee? I don't think so). Along with mistakes, there's the general swashbuckling traveler narritive; dusty roads, broken-down trains, sweaty street-side cafes, bitter coffee. Ironically, I have been to most of the places this guy has, but I didn't arrive on an Eritrean smuggler's boat, or hitchhiking in the back of a cargo truck. I flew, and quite nicely. It's not like Addis, or Harar, or Dire Dawa, or Sana'a are that difficult to reach; in fact on Emirates airline I had a massaging seat and more movies than my cable at home! It's just that it takes time that many people don't have. But that doesn't make for a great "coffee adventure story". I guess you have to read the book to know what I am talking about, but I have a very different impulse when it comes to a great trip like this. I think it is good enough as it is, no need to dress it up. The facts are plenty interesting, not enough to sell books, but certainly to those already interested in coffee. That's my 5 am thought; I will cup here in Addis again today, checking out new lots as they start to come in to the warehouses from the micro-regions. And if today is like the first day's cupping, things should be great this season!

...from the road

(A web album where I upload pictures from the road. No order to these ... Tom)

Warshing Dishes n' Spitting Coffee

If a "blog" is supposed to reflect real everyday life, then between every post about coffee there would have to be a post about washing dishes. A good part of cupping is washing dishes. I spend a LOT of time washing dishes, and spittoons, and dumping the grind thing over the spittoon, which gets really gross. Since I think, next the average coffee roaster shop, we cup a lot, we generate a lot of dishes, a lot of spent grounds, a lot of full spittoons. Gross, yes, but that's the way it goes. I think we might be on par with some green brokers/importers on daily cupping chores, and they usually have someone tasked with cleanup. I pity that person. On the plus side, I am headed to Ethiopia on Saturday, to Dire Dawa and Harar region first, then to Yirgacheffe and Sidamo. After that I will be in Kenya. More on that later... for now, it's just cupping and spittoons around here.
From Interesting Images

Cupping Sumatrans With Brasilians

Bruno and Chiago came by, two real Minieros ...ie coffee guys from smack dab in the center of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Bruno runs Beccor in Portland and we get some coffees from him, including the really nice Carmo de Minas lots from Sertao; my favorite of last year, the La Esperanca, and the Fazendo do Serrado we just added to the list. The odd thing is to cup Indonesia coffees with coffee people from ... well, anywhere but Indonesia. It completely baffles them. They think we're insane. How can we accept Sumatra wet-hulled coffees with fruity notes, earthy flavors, a rustic finish, then turn around and reject a Brazil lot with those same tastes? How can a Central America coffee with no acidity be sold at commercial prices, yet a Sumatra with no acidity attains healthy specialty prices? These Indonesians are defect coffees right? Yes and no. As consumers we have decided we don't want one flavor standard for all coffees. It's a specialty trade, right, and like a specialty store we want 15 types of mustard and 20 olive oils and just as many balsamic vinegars. Some of those push the envelope on "good taste" as well, in order to discover a wider range of flavors, some produced on the tree, some influenced heavily by the processing methods after the coffee is picked. Purists may cringe, but I think it's important to represent a wide range of coffee "characters" with the exception of those which are downright revolting or, quite possibly unsafe (moldy and musty coffees are indeed unsafe!) We look to each origin to perfect their own techniques, to "do what they do best" with their coffee. We don't want a Sumatra coffee from Panama, and we know for sure we cannot get the classic Panama cup profile from a Sumatra. What this says about our Gesha lots, our Nicaragua Java, our dry-process Centrals from Guatemala and Mexico ... I will leave that for further discussion. -Tom

New coffees, A new RSS feed

We added a new RSS feed to notify about new coffees. The link is feed://www.sweetmarias.com/rss/rss.php and it's easy to add to any browser (ie Firefox) or other device. Here's the new lots: Costa Rica Violeta -Don Teófilo Estate A clean, bright coffee with honey toast aromatics, bright lemon tea liveliness, hints of raspberry and strawberry, nutty roast tones, medium body, crisp aftertaste. El Salvador Los Luchadores Pacamara Tropical fruit aromas, lychee and passionfruit, with chocolate bittersweetness, baked peaches, mango, papaya, and anise seed. Kenya AA Auction Lot - Ndaroini A balanced Kenya with restrained acidity, grape, berry aroma and flavor with winey hints in the finish, syrupy sweetness, creamy body. Brazil Carmo de Minas - Fazenda do Serrado Lighter roasts have nut, caramel and orange rind hints with creamy body. FC+ roasts have chocolate, caramel, dense mouthfeel, minerals in the long finish. Great as SO espresso!