Monthly Archive for December, 2008

A foot in the holiday door jamb …

The door is closing on holiday ordering, but I must extend a proverbial foot into the jamb and add these new coffees:

  • El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro; I was trying to stash this vacuum packed gem for late season, but there has been too much demand. If you know this special coffee from years past, all I can say is it’s fantastic once again, many say better than last year.
  • Colombia "Los Pijaos de Tolima" (3 Star); a blend that we build one tiny lot at a time through ourdirect trade program. Tolimas have been consistently my favorite Colombias in recent harvests
  • Colombia Organic "Union de Nariño" (3 Star); our first certified organic Farm Gate coffee from Colombia, built from micro-lots in the town of La Union. Both these lots were shipped vacuum packed, and are vibrantly fresh.
  • Kenya AB Auction Lot #768 -Rukira; Our very last main crop auction lot Kenya until new crop, vivid fruits, and mercifully moderate acidity.
  • Sumatra Onan Ganjang Cultivar; A specific type of coffee shrub from the Lintong area, this was something I found on my recent trip there. It has a classic cup, intense, brutish, potent … and is quite different from other Lintong coffees.
  • Espresso Workshop #1 – The Ophiolite Blend; I am really excited about this blend, and our new espresso approach. We are dividing our blends into "Standards", blends we maintain consistently, and these Espresso Workshop "editions", things I have hammered out in the cupping lab above the offices here at Sweet Maria’s. These are lot-specific offerings, meaning that when the particular coffees in the mix are out, the blend "edition" is retired. What’s an ophiolite? Ask Wikipedia … or just read the review to see why I chose a geologic term… Tom
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    Roasted Pairings; Ethiopia Vs. Kenya

    Our final pre-holiday roast session is a head-to-head battle: which is the brightest, most dynamic, sweetest, most attractive coffee in Africa. How do the clean, vivid wet-process Ethiopia coffees stack up against the ripe fruit-bomb Kenyas? For this I chose the latest arrivals, both stellar wet-process lots: Ethiopia Organic Wet-Process Kebado and Kenya Auction Lot 738 -Marua Peaberry. Both roasts were quite light to maximize the intensity of the bright end of the spectrum. Ethiopia was roasted to a mere 420f using a slow warm-up profile with first crack ending at 415 or so. I think we can call this a true City roast, and a good one at that, with no bready or grainy light roast flavors. Marua had less mositure content and was roasted carefully to 380, temperature dropped to ensure entering 1st crack slowly, and finished at 426f, a City-City+ roast. Interestingly, the Kebado is one of our vacuum-pack projects, shipped in boxes from Ethiopia. It definitely had more mositure in the coffee and needed more time in the early part of the roast, whereas Kenya is a typical jute (well, sisal in this case) coffee, shipped in fiber bags. I noted that the Kenya 1st crack was at 398, a little early, and Ethiopia Kebado was at 406f. Since cross-origin cuppings are something I do nearly every day, the interesting differences in these 2 lots isn’t as dramatic to me; what strikes me in cupping these side by side is how wonderfully aromatic they BOTH are. Kebado’s citric and floral aromas are stunning; Marua fills the nose with ripe, red fruits, slightly winey in character. It’s interesting to compare the Ethiopia’s Meyer Lemon sweetness, with a slight rindy accent, to the slightly deeper tonality of the Kenya fruits. In general, I feel the Kebado is closer to perfection (in the review I call it a competition-winning type coffee), but these are definitely 2 very, very special lots, and I hope they spark some commentary, and inspire a few holiday smiles in your world… -Tom

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    Sumatra Coffee: Harvest and Processing

    Okay – I think it looks a lot better on Face Book, especially by following the link to the larger frame size

    This is a longer video compiled from clips shot in North Sumatra (Lintong, Berastagi, Sidikalang, Lake Toba Dolok Sanggul etc) and from the Aceh district (Bener Mariah, Lake Tawar, Takengon, Gayo areas). I focus on wet-hulling, called Giling Basah in Bahasa language. This method produces that characteristic Indonesia coffee flavor profile, but also involves risks to the cup quality. I am trying to make a higher quality copy because some of the smaller titles are hard to read. You might need to watch this twice… -Tom

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    Sumatra on $76 a day

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    Mountains of Gold and Bonko Black Sun (!)

    I added two new lots today. Costa Rica Tarrazu -Montes de Oro is from a small Micro Mill and farm run by Emilio Gamboa and his family. In a cupping with Costa Rica farmers here at Sweet Maria’s a month ago, this coffee impressed everyone, and it still does today! It is also one of the early lots in which we are transitioning to our new scoring system! Check it out. We have used the new numbers on our second lot too, another stellar dry-processed Ethiopia in a season of gems; Ethiopia Organic DP Bonko “Black Sun.” (It’s our new favorite name too). -Tom

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    Roasted Coffee Pairings

    So if you have followed our coffee roasting, we have decided to take it in a new direction… and we are pretty excited about it. Roasted coffee pairings means 1 lb each of 2 coffees, selected to illustrate a specific cup quality, processing difference, cultivar comparison … the possibilities are nearly endless. For more information see our Roasted Ordering Page. To start we are roasting a Wet-Process versus a Pulp-Natural coffee from the exact same harvest of the exact same estate. It’s rare to have a chance to evaluate the difference in these post-harvest treatments when all the other variables are the same. I roasted the El Salvador Finca Mauritania to 432 f, a City+ roast, and used the exact same roast curve for both coffees. I noticed the Pulp Natural took a little bit more heat and time to roast … interesting. The flavor difference we experienced in cupping the samples before this roast session were subtle, but with more rest they became clear. The Wet-Process is a refined coffee, more dynamci, vivid brightness, clean flavors, lighter body. The Pulp Natural has thicker body, quite evident, with fruited and chocolate backdrop to the cup and lower acidity. It shows how processing influences the final cup flavors, and helps the taster to define their palate preferences by presenting two clear differences. Let’s see where the chips fall in terms of which is favored, traditional wet-process or this hybrid process, used most widely in Brazil.

    We also are announcing our next 4 roast sessions (2 weeks apart, roughly, so 2 months total), and up until the next Pairing, you can actually order the complete set of 4 (a great gift as well). Here’s our plan for the next 2 months:

    All Out Africa Slugfest
    Is Kenya or Ethiopia the regining “King of All Africa Coffee?”  Both certainly produce phenomenal lots of bright, floral, vividly fruited coffees. How do they rate head-to-head. We choose Kenya Marua Peaberry versus Ethiopia Wet-Process Kebado as representatives for this special pre-Holiday roast session. This pairing will definitely solicit comment from your holiday dinner guests, as each of these are top-pick coffees for 2008. And with this weeks pairing, you have the rare chance to buy into the series of the next 4 roasts, a great gift to give (maybe even to yourself!)

    Fruity of Fruited?
    How do fruity flavors manifest themselves in different coffees, ones derived from different processes? We want to compare the full-on Dry-Process of Ethiopia versus the hybrid Wet-Hull process of Indonesia. Here are two totally different origins. How does altitude, cultivar, and (perhaps most importantly) these “post-harvest” processing difference change the way that fruit comes out in the cup? We chose our new lot of Ethiopia Organic Dry-Process “Bonko” (comming to the list soon, a phenomenal coffee) to a real sleeper, Indonesia Flores Organic Manggarai, the best Flores we have ever tasted.

    Is it right for a coffee buyer (okay, I mean us, Sweet Maria’s) to ask producers who have traditionally Wet-Processed their coffees to suddenly Dry-Process small lots? If the results are good (they are …and so starkly different from wet-process coffees) what will happen if this becomes a trend in Central America? Will great Wet-Process coffees disappear? Is it wrong to have the flavors of Ethiopia DP Sidamo from a Central, with acidity to boot? Or is it a bad precedent? We compare two intense Central America Dry-Process lots side-by side to see if any sins were committed.

    Sumatra North vs. North
    The district of North Sumatra is actually SOUTH of Aceh Province. Does that make sense? Both Lintongs from the North Sumatra area around Lake Toba and Aceh coffees from the much smaller Lake Tawar have been sold as Mandhelings in the past. And Mandheling area doesn’t even have coffee! But the flavors of these two are quite different; Lintongs have herbal notes and have been much brighter as of late, while Aceh coffees have classic body and flavors, but are perhaps less complex and more of a “blender.” How do two great lots from these areas rate side-by-side. We compare our Sumatra Classic Aceh Mandheling and one of our great Sumatra Lintong Blue Batak coffees.

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    Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala CoE

    12/9: The new coffees keep comin’! We have listed just now Brazil Ipanema “Tree Dry Process”, a coffee from an estate that is familiar to our customers, but this time as a dried on the tree coffee that makes an excellent coffee for espresso use, mildly fruited, strong chocolate roast taste, and heavy liquor-like body. Also two exceptional cofffees, El Salvador Peaberry “Aida’s Grand Reserve”, a great coffee of careful propagation, harvesting, picking, processing, and blending, and the Guatemala Cup of Excellence #1 -El Injerto, a 100% pacamara cultivar that is clean, sweetly fruited, and spicy in the cup. We are selling this Guatemala CoE coffee by half pounds, since it is so pricey.

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    And 3 new coffees today!

    12/4: And 3 more new coffees today! Sulawesi Toraja Sapan-Minanga, Kenya Auction Lot 738- Maura Peaberry, and Ethiopia Organic Wet-Process Kebado!

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