Sweet Maria's Weblog

gwa - teh -mah - lah

Yellow Bourbon Harvest I spent last week in Guatemala cupping new crop coffees and checking out a few farms that we really liked from last year. My Guatemala travelogue doesn't have a lot of comments, but there's a few nice photos! Above, checking out ripe Yellow Bourbon cherry as it comes into the mill after a day of harvesting.

Rwanda Gkongoro Nyarusiza

We sample roasted this lovely coffee from Rwanda to four different levels on Thursday and cupped it this morning. Everyone knows that roasted coffee tastes way better after a few days of resting right? So, it is always crucial to think ahead when we are targeting roasts. Derek and I agreed that the middle two roasts were much better than the lightest and darkest roasts. It just so happened that the darkest roast clearly contained a bean with the dreaded potato defect and the whole cup tasted like drinking coffee through a paper towel roll, gross. Rwanda coffees sometimes contain this type of defect and if you brew up a cup at whatever level roast with a defective bean look out, you'll need a palate readjustment afterwards.   The two middle roasts that we liked were incredible with the sweet and sour fruit notes Tom mentions in the review. What I liked about the second lightest roast was the fruit and finish and what Derek like about the second darkest roast was the bittersweet and berry. So, to achieve the best of both roasts I targeted the final roast temp. at 438. The first batch was almost exactly the same color (after grinding, of course) as the darker roast so I dialed it back to 436 for the remaining five batches. Total roast time clocked in at a whopping 17:50 for this dense coffee. It doesn't really expand as much as some other coffees and ends up looking a little blotchy, but we know this isn't a beauty contest, it's all about taste. Speaking of taste, I mentioned at the top of this post how roasted coffee can really change over the span of a few days and this applies particularly to the light roasted coffee we often offer up to our customers. Patience is more than a virtue when it comes to home roasting, it is a necessity to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor. Tom was gone all last week in Guatemala and when he returned he remarked how some of the coffees he'd cupped in a marathon of sample roasting last Saturday tasted this Saturday, some of them were so much better after even a full week of resting. Now, we all know you can't wait too long, then you've got stale coffee and missed the window. But next time you do some roasting try keeping some around for as much as four or five days and notice how the taste changes over that time period. Fresh is just a word, don't get hung up on drinking things too soon, you will be missing out on whole worlds of flavor.

Colombia Los Naranjos de Huila

Today we are roasting a pooled Colombia lot from a hundred or so small growers at elevations ranging from 1,600 to 1,900 meters. This is an interesting coffee because it has good qualities at a wide range of roasts from C+ all the way to Vienna. We roasted the samples to four different levels and chose the darkest version which was Full City. When I tried to replicate this roast on the Probat the first batch hit first crack at 405 degrees near the 14:30 mark. Final roast time was 17:00 and I stopped the roast when the thermo-probe hit 438. After grinding up a sample of the target roast and my first batch I compared the color and it looked like I went a little bit too light. Subsequent batches are being taken up to 442 degrees and I'll blend in the slightly lighter first batch--you might want to know that I am roasting 11 total batches today (not to mention 6 batches of Espresso, and 2 batches of Decaf!) so the light beans will be less than 10% of the total beans roasted. The nice thing about a coffee like this is blending a few different roast levels together sometimes yields better results in the cup than just having one roast level. I'm hoping to succeed in getting that dynamic cup Tom speaks of in the review that is both bright and balanced.

2 new Brazils & 1 Wanna-be

We have 2 new Brazils and a Costa Rica that just thinks it's a Brazil! Of the later,  this is current crop pulp natural coffee (called Honey coffee, or Miel in CR) just like Brazil style Pulp coffees, but with more brightness. It's from a specific farm above the beautiful town of Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica Finca Toño Miel. From Brasil we welcome the return of 2 favorites. Brazil Daterra Farms  Yellow Bourbon is from one of the most reknown fazendas in Brazil, innovators in all aspects (and even our special lot comes to us in vacuum bags to capture freshness). It's as elegant as they come. On the other end of the spectrum, fruity and wild Brazil  FTO Poço Fundo Coop is a full natural (dry-processed coffee), rustic and funky.

costa rica micro-mills

I posted a Costa Rica Micro Mill travelogue to the new/temporary Sweet Maria's image gallery site. I went on a whirlwind tour of Costa Rica small mills, basically a big shopping trip, looking for new contacts and outstanding coffees. I felt like it was a 8 day trip, but it was only 4 ... filled with cupping, farm and mill tours, hand shaking, back slapping, flim-flamming. Okay, not much of the later, but I can say for sure that the bar for quality has been raised, and there's a whole new approach to coffee in Costa Rica that should give hope to those jaded by neutral cup quality from giant container load "Specialty Coffee." The picture above is new coffee flower buds emerging for next years crop at Las Lajas, an organic farm in Alajuela/Poas area. -Tom