Monthly Archive for February, 2008

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.

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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.

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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

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a little slice of costa rica

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Sumatra Classic Mandheling

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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Panama / Rwanda

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! Panama  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 … Rwanda  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 …

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Ethiopia Organic Golocha Dry-Process

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

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Will we all be embarrassed?

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

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