Well, we haven't had Sumatra Classic Mandheling on offer for a while and now it is back and quite good this time around. Tom and I were talking about the methodology we use here at Sweet Maria's to determine which coffees to procure and offer up to our customers and this Sumatra is a good example of how selective we tend to be. In any given week Tom may cup half a dozen or more Sumatra coffees looking for the best lots with the right cup characteristics. The cupping room is normally piled high with sample trays, waiting to be cupped , I've seen weeks when Tom is cupping as many as 40 different samples in one week! Out of that amount he might chose only 3 or 4 coffees to add to our list. So, I think our methodology comes down to two main factors: freshness of the lot, and cup quality (duh!). All of our offerings are current crops and we start to get nervous about freshness if we've had a coffee for as little as three months. And when it comes to cup quality, Tom always approaches cupping samples with a fresh palate and doesn't pick coffees based on the name on the bag or how good it was last season. It has to prove itself in the cup! Now, I know most of you know this stuff already and that is why you are even bothering to read this rambling rant. I just wanted to make sure we communicated as much as possible about how we do things differently here at Sweet Maria's. OK, back to the coffee we are roasting today: Sumatra Classic Mandheling. We sample roasted to four different levels and settled on the second darkest roast, which is right around FC. This coffee will taste great roasted even darker but we are going to try and steer clear of second crack this time around.
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We were squirreling away a Panama lot for that window of time when new crop Centrals are a month or two away, and out selection starts to thin out. That time is now! PanamaÂ SHB Las Victorias is a Boquete region coffee, and cups clear and clean like the day it came in. We also have a superb E. Africa new crop arrival ... RwandaÂ Gkongoro Nyarusiza is a mouthful to pronounce, and a superb bright coffee in the cup, with Mandarin orange citrus sweetness, cherry blossom aroma, and great balance. It is pure Bourbon cultivar too. On a totally unrelated note, I got meself one of these fancy new MacPro 8 core super computers, and sure it's fast, but the keyboard is all amiss. I can't make question marks, colons, exclamation points ... how can I continue to post without my explanation points. All I can do is make ... these ... senseless ... ellipses ...
Josh did 4 levels of sample roasts of this natural Ethiopia on Friday and I cupped it early Monday morning ... so it was well-rested. The lightest roast, like many DP Ethiopias, is not a pretty sight; variation in bean-to-bean color. Hey, that's what dry-processed coffees are like. It's not a beauty contest here. They discovered long ago that it's much better pour the coffee into your mouth, not all over your eyes. Youch! After all most of us grind and drink this stuff, not admire the hue of the roasted bean (although a few people have turned espresso crema and latte art into a visual obsession). Where was I? Golocha. The fact is, the lightest roast had great dried apricot fruit to it, slightly winey, a touch of banana, a little mango, along with buttery roast notes. With each darker roast shade, that was eclipsed by other flavors, soft rustic chocolate tones. Not that chocolate is undesirable at any time, but tasting lively fruit fade through all the darker roast levels is the flavor equivalent of watching the sunset, and the lightest roast was akin to preserving that golden moment of shimmering intensity before the light fades into darkness. Yes, despite this overblown analogy, I basically mean it. (But seriously dude, don't pour the coffee over your eyes). -Tom
Do you put on one leather glove in order to make an espresso? I don't. Do you polish the puck clockwise or counter-clockwise? Hmmm. Do you drink coffee with a silver-plated "cupping spoon?" I don't either. Do you "break the coffee crust" by stirring 3 times to the bottom, or do you go 4 times just on the surface? Does brewed coffee extract or infuse? For how long? Do you argue with your other about whether your morning bowl of fruit loops has a hint of red apple, or green apple? If it's red, are we talking Fuji, Braeburn, Red Delicious ... and do the flavors "knit" well together.? How is the structure of flavors in those Fruit Loops? So 5 or 10 years from now will this look foolish, indulgent, grossly excessive, or will it be part of a ground-breaking new movement of "super-sensory" consumption? Will their be a Guild for everything? A separatist Machiatto Guild wants acknowledgement for their unique skills --- they aren't just your average "Baristi," after all. How about that Biscotti Guild we were talking about forming? Will the janitors accept their same lousy pay if we pump up their esteem at the annual Mop & Bucket Guild Retreat? Just a few early morning thoughts. -Tom
I just returned from a week in India, my first time there. I edited down from 1350 pictures to a mere 302, and I give you my usual warning ... 50% of them are not about coffee. Additionally, it's all my opinion. I also wrote a little essay about the contrast in India between things delightful and appalling. I also picked up a lot of information in our meetings with the director of the Coffee Board of India, and the Central Coffee Research Station. But here's a link to the photos on the temp. site in our new format ... or here's the html link on our site, which loads a bit faster. Ironically, I ate tons of incredible food and had no queasiness in India, but got totally sick on something in Amsterdam. Okay, maybe it was the raw meat hamburger I ate at the big soccer game I went to. Anyway, I have to get back into this time zone, and will be heading off to cup Costa Ricas in 7 days. -Tom