Sweet Maria's Weblog

Who I met at TED

I took part in providing the coffee service at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA  this past February. The TED conference is a collection of talks given by inventors, scientists, sociologists, programmers, teachers, entertainers, and people working on projects that could have dramatic impacts on society in both large and small scales, all built around particular themes (conferences.ted.com/TED2013/). A pretty heady time but honestly the majority of people seemed to be rather open, approachable, and genuinely curious about everyone, and really into the coffee.

The coffee program was put together by the Roasters Guild and Barista Guild of America, with the Roasters Guild sourcing the coffees from roasters all over the country and the Barista Guild providing the actual service at the conference. Eight coffees were selected from the 36 submissions. There were over 30 baristas from all over the world as well who volunteered to take part in this unique coffee set up at coffee bars throughout the event campus. There was even one DIY bar set up with various manual brewing devices and a one group La Marzocco GS3 which is a hot rod of a little machine.

When we talked about the coffees with the attendees we made a point to not just say where the coffees were from, but who had roasted them and what they had tried to bring out in the coffees through the roasting, talking more about the things that the attendees might taste in the coffee rather than details that they might not be able to identify in the cup. The idea was to really promote craft and the collaboration within the coffee community.

We also made a special point not to tell people that they couldn't have cream and sugar, and made them the drinks they asked for instead of correcting them or otherwise. I know that that sounds pretty simple, but it was actually a pretty big deal. Instead of saying no to sugar, we told them that we had selected a particular sugar because we liked the way that it brought out certain aspects in the coffee. The idea was to deliver service in such a way that it promoted being excited about the coffe you got instead of embarrassed for liking it a certain way.

One thing that I thought was especially cool about the conference is that I was approached by a number of home roasters.  I was so excited when they'd come up to chat about equipment and roasting. I'm not surprised as those of us with this bug come from all different walks of life, but it was really great getting to have these...

Happy Monday with New Coffees

Brazil Fazenda Sao Benedito has milk chocolate, sweet caramel nougat, hints of fruit and low acidity.
Java Sunda Candra Wulan will have cooked fruit notes, lively acidity, solid body without being weighty, and brown sugar sweetness.
Rwanda Nyamasheke Kanzu has acidity ranging from tartaric to malic, works well across the roast spectrum, and has an amazingly creamy mouthfeel.
Sumatra Abyssinia Typica Micro-Lot is unique with slight floral hints, sweetly fruited flavors, and darkly intense chocolate.

A New Coffee Quartet

 Colombia San Jose Luis Alberto Ambito is a very sweet and versatile drinking coffee.

Colombia Agua Blanca Johan Penna has a big fruit profile and heavy sweetness.

Colombia Inza de Cauca is candy-like with honey sweetness.

Sumatra Mandheling-Aceh Triple-Pick is chocolate-heavy and works well at darker roasts.

Decaf is for Lovers: 5 New Coffees... 3 New Decafs

Brazil Mogiana WP Decaf is surprisingly sweet and versatile for use in espresso blends.

Colombia Cauca Popayan WP Decaf has balanced sweetness and acidity with golden raisin notes.

El Profundo SWP Decaf Blend is not your average decaf, with cocoa, apricot and clean syrupy sweetness, great across the roast spectrum.

Aged Sumatra Aceh Pwani - 2007 Vintage is intense, peppery, hot, with dark liquor, herbs, and mint, not for the faint hearted.

Rwanda Karenge Coffee Villages has structured brightness, orange and spice, black cherry and cola.

The Mini-500

One of our regular home roasting customers (and super nice guy) Henry Chang dropped by today to show us his Mini 500. No, not his sub-compact sports car...his mini-shop roaster. Henry personally imported it from Taiwan a few years back. It looked very cool parked next to our much larger Probat roaster. The Mini 500 is a propane burning drum roaster that has can roast 500 g. (just over 1 lb.) per batch. It’s essentially a sample roaster or small-scale commercial roaster, with a variable cast iron drum, needle gas valve for flame adjustment and an external cooling tray. Henry vents his roaster using dryer tubing, which attaches perfectly to the top of the chaff cyclone. It’s a fun roaster to use, but we wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a good deal of roasting experience under his/her belt. Are we going to sell it on sweetmarias.com any time soon? No way. Hottops, Gene Cafe's, Behmors, FreshRoasts, Nescos and popcorn poppers are more our speed. 


Here's some Mini 500 stats...
  • 500 g. capacity (just over 1 lb)
  • cast iron drum
  • chaff collector
  • variable drum speed
  • adjustable damper for exit air
  • gas burner with needle valve for fine adjustments
  • cooling tray with powerful fan
  • bean probe & ambient temperature readout