Sweet Maria's Weblog
I just finished pouring over 30 samples from an interesting text conducted in Aceh Sumatra. The idea was to identify the best cultivars for cup quality, in a place where there is little attention payed to such things. It was part of a project by an Australian coffee consultant, Anthony Marsh. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it when the REAL experiment occurred, so I received samples that are a bit old and baggy. One of the brilliant things here is that each cultivar is available as a wet-process and a wet-hulled (the Indonesia method) sample. In this, I get the chance to taste the cultivar in a more direct, undistorted way with the wet-process, and then with the flavors imbued by the wet-hull method usual to "Mandheling" coffees and such. I made a table of my results, but it is not of great use since all I have right now are the codes, not the cultivar names these represent. The results were tainted by the older samples, and by a couple mis-roasts on my part. But I could cup through these problems and there were 5 cultivars that were definitely superior (including a couple interesting longberry types) and 3 that were absolute duds. Many others were average or below average, with scoring range for all between 76 and 85. Nothing fabulous, but that's not the point with a test like this.
I wasn't kidding ... I am going to start using this blog for real certified blogging chatter. Now is your chance to unsubscribe, to cancel your RSS, to bail out. Anyway, I recupped the very first Main Crop Auction Lot Kenyas today, with mixed results. I am always suspicious about early offerings. They tend to be from lower altitudes. But I was impressed how many Nyeri region lots there were. Familiar names were Karagoto, Kagumoini, Kieni and .. ugh... Deep River. What's with that? Not too sad about the fact that Deep River ended up with my lowest score. I would be embarrassed if that name made our offer list. There were nice lots, but nothing I felt I absolutely "must have" so we didn't enter any prices into the auction. There's always next week, and the next, and the next. Also was cupping Kona arrivals today, that should be on the list next week. Skip and Rita Cowell are tops again: Kowali Farm is really excellent. My City+ roast was so floral and sweet. Really sweet, delicate and sweet. The new offering from Lehuula farm came in really nice too, very happy with it. Lehuula was a finalist in the Kona Competition this year too (Kowali won 1st place in the so-called "larger farms" category). Moki's is cupping really well too, and we should have that later. Roger (Moki's) made the finals as well this year. Also cupped some unrequested samples: a Papua New Guinea from a Bahai faith community grown at 400 meters! Groan ... And a Laos coffee that has some promise, but not right now and that's for sure. It's from a whopping 800 meters but cupped really baggy. Trying to get time to work on the new "coffee glossary" database (more on that later). But I am on Dad duty with Ben now, so everything comes to a halt! -Tom
Boy, isn't blog an awful word. Then again, blogs can be kind of awful. I've been thinking a bit lately that this weblog isn't what i wanted it to be. I have been using it to announce new coffee arrivals, which is fine. But with our new site improvements, i feel like that is a redundant use, and not very exciting anyway. So I am going to return to the original idea - the day-to-day at sweet maria's ... and just post what I am doing here and thinking about on a routine basis. The good thing about my role here is that it changes, and some of it can be mildly interesting. For example, today I am roasting samples from a Sumatra cultivar experiment, the work of a coffee researcher named Tony Marsh. He painstakingly went through the Aceh area to identify unique tree types, many at an existing but abandoned government research station in Bener Mariah area. Then they produced 2 samples from each cultivar they found, aq wet-hulled sample and a wet-process sample. So I am roasting them all (I have nothing but codes to cup by - it's a fully blind experiment) and will log my cupping results. I'll write more about it later. We also have been testing some SO coffees as espresso, including the dry-process Centrals we roasted for our Coffee Pairing this week. The Mex Nayarit Dry Process was nice - the Guat Oriente DP as espresso was too, too fruity. That coffee really sits on the edge of fruity and over-fruity, an interesting lot to taste, if nothing more than to define where that line (fruity-overly fruity) lies according to your palate. For me, it depends on the roast. A bit darker and it is positive fruity chocolate; but lighter and it has the sourness of overripe fruit. After I finish roasting, I am going to Costco. Woo Hoo. After that I will be cupping the first Main Crop Kenya Auction samples, not expecting too much though... Tom
Is it right for a coffee buyer to ask producers who have traditionally Wet-Processed their coffees to suddenly Dry-Process small lots? The results from this week’s pairing would indicate that it is right, to a point. The wonderful Wet-Process Centrals that we know and love should continue to have success but changing tastes and greater awareness about coffee processing in the coffee shops and roasters around the world clear a path for flavor profiles like these two coffees. The Mexico Nayarit was roasted to around 437 degrees which took about 16 minutes on the Probat while the Guatemala Oriente behaved quite differently in the roaster with first crack coming on later (around 420 degrees) and finally being dumped at 442 degrees at about 16:30 minutes. One thing is that these coffees achieve the right balance between fruit and chocolate when taken darker than their wet proccessed brethren, so both were roasted to Full City levels. Both coffees have a wonderful appearance in the green state with amber skins on a few beans and when roasted have a fruited berry dry fragrance and sweet chocolate flavors in the cup. Here at Sweet Maria’s we try to think outside what is normally done for one purpose: outstading quality in the cup. When Tom and I cupped the results from these two roasts we were both smiling at the strange experience of drinking Central American coffees with distinctly African and Indonesian flavor characteristics, we think this kind of dismantling of "received wisdom" is an important part of understanding the wonderful crop that coffee has become. As long as the Dry-Processing of coffee is done in the proper manner with great attention to detail and storage there is no telling what new flavor profiles might emerge. As we all know, quality begins at the farm level and as home roasters we can ensure that each lot we purchase can reveal the hard work of the farmer and miller. This pairing proves you can teach new regions old tricks with fantastic results. –Josh