We're off to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (scaa) conference in scintillating "Hotlanta" today. In a way, I wonder why I go. I count among the disaffected, I suppose. At one time "Specialty Coffee" really meant something, defining itself in opposition to commercial/industrial grade coffee. Now there are so many things crammed under the roof of Specialty, it's hard not to feel squeezed out. I don't know what we are ... Fourth Wave, Micro-Lot Specialists, DIY ... it always seems silly to think of such terms and even sillier to apply them. Maybe it's my history. Since I am from an artsy background, it reminds me of photography, which was (supposedly) my field of focus. Photography as a technical skill gives you a lot to talk about with other photo geeks, bracketing half-stops, and backlight compensation. But when it comes to the ideas, what you really do, well, you might be better off talking to your pet dog than most photo people; just because you share a method doesn't mean you have shared goals. It's like that with the coffee trade. You could sit next to a fellow coffee buyer on a plane trip to an origin country, and have nothing substantial to talk about but the weather. Of course, the opposite can be true to, which is why I still go to the $caa, armed with a dim hope. In reference to my crafty use of the $, I have to consider this: what furthers our ability to find better coffees to offer our customers, $3000 spent going to the scaa (Josh comes too), or $2500 spent on a great origin trip, cupping, visiting farms, understanding local issues, forming new relationships. For sweet maria's it's the later, of course. Two footnotes to this grumpy post: a. I volunteer to help roaster trainings and cupper trainings at scaa and I find that worthwhile for me and others, and b. the branch of the scaa called the Roasters Guild, especially the intensive RG retreat each year, is very, very worthwhile. Incidentally, I will try to send a couple pictures to the web log from there 1. an image of the stupidest coffee product I find (there will be a lot of competition in this category) and 2. something new that is actually sensible and of good quality. That might be tough.
Sweet Maria's Weblog
We’re having a little bit of fun with this week’s roast pairing and you are only supposed to be reading this post if you’ve already tried both coffees. Take a guess as to what origin you think these two coffees are from. Both were roasted to the same level, somewhere between City+ and FC. In coffee #1 you should notice a nice brightness in this very clean, lively cup. There is also a lovely floral quality and great medium body out of this Wet Processed lot. Do you know what it is? Answer: Sulawesi AA Wet-Process Toarco. That’s right this is a Sulawesi coffee with as much in common with a Guatemala flavor profile as other Sulawesi coffees. Which brings us to coffee #2. Here we have a much more robust bodied coffee with earthy qualities that should be much easier to figure out. Can you tell where it is from? Answer: Sulawesi Enrekang “Mt. Alla”. We were really trying to fool you all in to thinking that the Toarco was from a different region because it is the most radically different Sulawesi we’ve ever found. There is a striking difference between the Wet-Process that is done with the Toarco, and the Wet-Hulling that is done with the “Mt. Alla”. The former creates a very clean, brilliant cup while the latter leads to a more brooding, rustic cup. Hopefully you enjoy having two such different coffees from the same spot on Earth, please let us know on the RoastBlog what you think of this mystery roast idea. It is a good way to challenge your coffee knowledge and encourages a greater understanding of how processing plays such a key role in the cup results.
Take a look over to the right column of this here humble "BLOG" and you see our latest arrivals of coffee. Lo and Behold! Actual lots from the Rwanda and Bolivia Cup of Excellence competitions. As the coffee buyer and cupper here at SM, even I can't quite believe they actually arrived. Sometimes it seems that the deliveries of these lots take longer and longer and longer. When was I at the Rwanda CoE? Last August? What month is it now, April? Lordy. The good news is this: we have been vacuum packing all of our CoE lots, and they are cupping incredibly good, super clean, vividly bright. Be they tardy as all get out, vacuum packaging has been the savior of these long lost lots, and they are just as they were on the cupping table at the event. The reviews are thorough, check them out ... -Tom
[caption id="attachment_277" align="alignnone" width="289" caption="Volcan Baru from the Volcancito side"][/caption]Tom's trip reports from the trip he made in late March to Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are just posted. The trips were short - but action packed! Lots of good information about what we can expect in terms of coffees from the new crop in these countries. And of course, lots of fun photos.- Maria