Sweet Maria's Weblog

3 new coffee lots

New coffee arrivals yet again. We have a new lot of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe - Moledina 3993, traditional wet-processed floral and citrus, but not sour. This lot is remarkably sweet (think ripe tangerine). The name? It is from the exporter who brought this coffee to our attention, and 3993 is the final digits of the "chop" (ICO lot number). On a different note, new crop Indonesia continues to trickle in. No, not the Sulawesi (which we expect in December, a very short crop this season). No, not another Sumatra. This time a heavy-bodied Timor FTO Maubesse . This lot has more "Java-like" character, more rustic, foresty Indonesia funk than last year's peaberry lot, and a ton of think, viscous body. It also makes a great S.O. espresso at FC+ roast. And for you classic espresso hounds, there's a new lot of India Organic Washed Robusta. Organic from India is good since they have the habit of puffing methyl bromide into the containers before they seal them up. It's not as nasty as it sounds, and a strange choice to make since good clean Specialty coffee is not going to have little bugs crawling around in it (low grade coffees harvested from the ground are a better target for fumigation). Anyway, I have been researching methyl bromide and will write more about the fumigation issue a bit later.

new coffees (gran finales)

The final installment in the '06 Cup of Excellence chapter, our 2 lots from El Salvador have arrived. The most expensive coffee in the auction, the second place lot is El Salvador Cup of Excellence #2 - Los Planes, and exotic cup with Dutch cocoa, pine oils, green apple, marzipan ... now that's character! And our sleeper favorite was the El Salvador Cup of Excellence #12 - El Zapote, with marmalade, dried dark fruit, and blackberry sweetness. In another grand finale announcement, the last main crop Kenya of the season is here, and talk about ending on a high note. Kenya AA Auction Lot 764 -Ndaroini Nyeri is a sweet, citric cup, lemon custard, blackberry-currant fruits, spice (corriander) accents; a remarkabley lively cup.

fruit or ferment

I thought I had a good idea of what a fermented taint was but with discussions here and some of Tom's latest coffee descriptions I am just confused now. So the question is: when does Intense Fruit cross the line into a Fermented Taint? Thanks, David
Not an easy question, and exactly the point of offering these 2 coffees that push that limit: Ethiopia FTO Lekempti Dry Process and (to a much lesser extent) Juan Francisco El Salvador. Partly, it is subjective ... on the other hand, a truly fermenty coffee will fade within a few months, and just taste dirty. I just cupped a Sumatra today that is another "challenging" cup profile in the same way; very fruity, but remaining more on the clean side (when I taste mustiness or mold, that IS, by all standards, over the line). Take this same debate over into the realm of food and you find a lot of parallels. For me, the analogy is between very refined food (for example, white sugar sweetness) versus more "natural" food (for example, raw unfiltered honey, sorghum syrup, unsulphered blackstrap mollases). The later contain sweetness with other flavors many would consider earthy, herbal, groundy, vegetal, woody, etc. Now, I don't know where the line is between them: I don't want to subsist on a diet that tastes like fungus and rotting wood, but I also don't want to have a sanitized, boring diet of clean-flavored, homogenized food. The same goes for coffee. There are coffee cuppers who reject even the slightest suggestion of unorthodoxy, of the unexpected, in their coffee. Seriously, it is true ... they want "clean, sweet, floral, citric, slight chocolate note" every time. Even flavors like nuts, cedar, and spice can cause them to suspect a coffee of uncleanliness. Most on the other extreme (in my experience) accept really marginal flavors because they roast coffee heavily ... "west coast roast" types who can't live without DP Ethiopias and DP Sumatras. My opinion: we should try to be flexible, and open to new tastes. We want coffee with character, something surprising ... but not a coffee that can't be stored for 6 months green and still cup with the same quality. That IS important. But in general, the question you raise is something that is open-ended and should always be a matter for debate. And in a way it is good that cuppers don't agree on this; just another way the coffee trade is heterogeneous; that we don't all offer the same thing because we don't agree! -Tom

is it coffee?

robusta coffee marked xxx There are laws concerning the maximum number of defects per 300 gram sample of coffee is allowable to import into the U.S. I guarantee you this exceeds the maximum, but it happens anyway. Who is out there sampling and checking all the incoming lots? nobody. this sample was something i pulled from a bulk sack (a giant pallet-sized poly bag that crap coffee, unworthy of the expense of burlap 60 kg bags) down at the annex coffee warehouse. it was marked xxx! i wouldn't care except for this: if there was no market for this coffee, if it could not be exported, if it was forcibly destroyed, there would be an sea-change in the coffee market, benefiting every farmer from those with a backyard of coffee to those with many hectares. banning below grade coffee and triage coffee (the coffee that even the best mills produce as a byproduct from unripe cherry, broken beans, everything the density sorter removes, etc), then bottom-feeding buyers of this crap would be forced to purchase low-grade-yet-wholseome, non-defective coffee, and competition would increase at the lower-rungs of the coffee supply ladder, buoying the middle and upper end too. It has been suggested before by people (unlike me) who actually understand the global coffee commodity trade, but as long as this level of coffee is allowed, there is no incentive for big crap roasters to behave any better.

the boat came in, again.

The boat came in, again. While we continue to run out of early-season lots, later arrivals (and a new crop Indonesia Java) have emerged. I know there's a lot of coffees coming in but I would I would loathe "pacing out" these arrivals artificially, since what we do here at SM is simply a reflection of the coffee crop cycle, and what small, outstanding lots of new crop coffee we can source. Guatemala FTO Quiche - Maya Ixil is a milder, lower acid Central with a really nice milk chocolate and fruit character. A sleeper "generic" Colombia Excelso 13356 ... hey, cup quality is wherever you find it, with or without estate or micro-regional pedigree. Here's a completely wild and even questionable coffee, but I had to put it out there: Ethiopia FTO DP Lekempti. The review explains why. And on the flip side, that heavy-body, tame-flavored new crop Java Government Estate Djampit is here. If you are overstocked on green, just put down the credit card and roll back from that computer ... these lots will be here at least a couple months. - Tom