Sweet Maria's Weblog

A post from Rwanda

Well, we finished the judging of the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence, the first COE ever held in Africa. We did all the judging in Huye, Butare, near many coffee farms and mills. I always prefer to have the cuppings in the coffee areas, as opposed to the big city (I guess it is a stretch to call the capital, Kigali, a big city). Nobody has posted results yet, but here are the top 5: 1. MIG Buremera 2. Facko Rulindo 3. MIG Buremera 4. SDL Minazi 5. SDL Muyongwe 6. Kabuye Maraba 7. Bufcafe Remera 8. Coopac Kabirizi 9. MIG Buremera 10. Horizon Nyamyumba Ok ... what the heck? These are the names of washing stations, i.e. wet mills. The first is the name of the mill group, and the second is the area. In Rwanda, farmers tend to have around 300 trees. Trees! That makes them some of the smallest farms in any coffee producing area. Each winning lot, about 15 bags (60 kg) of green, are the work of anywhere from 60 to 250 farmers! There is going to be a huge effort to distribute the auction proceeds to all these little farmers. (The auction is in October). You might notice the name Bufcafe, because we have offered this coffee several times, including the one we won #2 at in the SCAA Roasters Choice competition. There were also some amazing lots that were kicked out due to one defect cup ... one cup of over 100 tested. So we are going to bid on those too, because they would have been top 10 coffees otherwise. Here's a picture of a local business in Huye. I uploaded more to flickr too ... but I am off to Harar region of Ethiopia now, so the full trip report for this historic COE event will not be uploaded for a week or more... Tom (from Novotel Hotel, Kigali Rwanda) Smart Saloon, Cyber Cafe, Huye

Nicaragua Pacamara Peaberry

This coffee is a rare beast indeed and the large bean size presents some challenges to the roaster.  On smaller roasters the beans will move and behave differently so care should be taken in order to achieve lighter City roasts.  On the Probat this meant dialing back the heat when the thermoprobe read 370 degrees, normally I would wait another ten degrees but with the larger bean structure there is greater potential for first crack blow outs.  I pulled the batch when the thermoprobe reached 427 degrees and the beans had an even surface color and nice expansion with wide crevices.

A few new things for late summer

While Tom is in Rwanda - I have added a few new merchandise items; at long last we have Ibriks to sell again; we added a Double Wall Glass Bodum French press (which works great to keep the brew hot); and what our customers have all been waiting for.... a Sweet Maria's Soccer/Football! Okay - so no one was waiting for this, no one asked for them, but Tom thought they would be cool anyhow. We decided to sell them to help subsidize the ones we are giving away.- Maria

Race against time: 15 arrivals at once (ugh)

I am racing against the clock to add all these new arrivals before leaving for the first-ever Rwanda Cup of Excellence competition on Thursday night. I am going to split this into 3 parts: New Centrals; South America + a new DP Ethiopia; 6 new decafs arrive at once.
  • Part 1: A smattering of new crop Centrals from mid-harvest. Costa Rica Helsar "Typica Villalobos" is our second pure cultivar lot from this fine Micro-Mill, a balanced cup with soft chocolate tones. On the other extreme, a Central American that cups like a DP Sidamo; heavily fruited El Salvador Santa Rita Full Natural. (Note... I messed up; this lot arrives Thursday August 28). Then there is the famous one, #1 in Cup of Excellence for Bourbon last year, and for this cultivar in '08: Guatemala El Injerto Estate Pacamara (we will have the very spendy auction lot version later). We have a very high-grown Huehuetenango with a classic, bright cup: Guatemala Huehuetenango "Quetzal Azul". Like the Santa Rita Full Natural, we also have the Mexico Organic Nayarit Dry-Process, as we did last year. Dry-Process = Natural. Natural = Dry-Process. In Central America it means lower acidity, heavy body, fruit, and great intensity.
  • Part 2: Brazil -Colombia-Colombia-Ethiopia. It's an odd time to be getting a Brazil, with new crop 4 months out. But this lot was too distinct, with complex character: Brazil Pocos de Caldas -Fazenda Barreiro. The Colombia Organic Cauca Tierradentro (2-Star) is a really nice regional lot we found, whereas the Colombia "Perros Bravos de Huila" (3-Star) is a whole different beast, a lot we built through cupping around a hundred tiny farm-distinct Huila lots. And on a different note, a super wildly-fruited...

Mexico FTO Chiapas - La Union Coop

This week's Roastmaster coffee is a fine pooled lot from Chiapas that boasts a balanced sweet cup and can take a wide range of roasts. The first batch we roasted seemed to hit first crack rather violently, I missed backing off the heat right at 380 degrees like we've been doing and waited until 385. This caused the coffee to enter first crack with too much momentum resulting in a loud snap around 415, which is a bit later than most other coffees. For subsequent batches I was more on target and even pulled the heat back a little before it reached 380, first crack was still very loud and snappy which leads us to think the moisture content of this coffee is a touch lower than some of our other lots. Basically, roasting isn't an exact science, as you all know, each time out you need to get in "synch" with the coffee you are roasting and sometimes it takes a batch to do that. We settled on a roast in the CIty++/Full CIty range which meant a final thermoprobe temperature of 430 degrees.