Monthly Archive for April, 2009

Two new oddball t-shirts!


We have our own ideas when it comes to tshirts. We like the art we find when traveling to coffee origins, folksy stuff. The green shirt shown above is from beauty shop (they call them “Saloons” there) Tom took near the town of Karatina, Kenya. The orange “Double Expresso” shirt is a drawing of Tom’s own creation… what can I say. Expresso is so hard to find these days!  – Maria

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Roast Coffee Pairing #10: Raisin Coffee

Raisin coffee is a term for dry-processing, where the coffee is allowed to dry (partially or wholy) on the tree, before it is picked. It is only possible in a few coffee growing areas where the weather changes dramatically, where the dry season starts when the coffee is ripe on the tree. In the past, picking dried coffee from the tree was reserved for the end of the season, when all coffee cherries, ripe or not, dried or not, are “strip-picked” off the branches indiscriminately. This is called the Repela, or Rebusca in some places, the final harvest, and the quality of this coffee is very low. But a true Raisin coffee is picked with care, choosing only uniformily “tree-dried” cherries that have a raisin-like brown appearance. The cherries are then carefully sorted to remove defect or under-ripe coffee. A true Raisin coffee takes a lot of work. We have two lots from Brazil, one that is a special project on a designated plot of a larger fazenda, the Brazil Moreninha Formosa Raisin Coffee Microlot. The other is from a very large coffee farming operation, not a micro-lot at all: Brazil Ipanema Tree-Dry Process. The fruity flavors associated with tree-dry coffee, from the longer contact the fruit and skin has with the coffee seed inside, is much more apparent in the Moreninha, but both feature heavy body, low acidity, chocolate roast taste, and a very pleasurable tasting experience.  As for the roast level, I really tried to push the Ipanema right up to the Full City+ level with a few snaps of second crack heard as the beans hit the cooling tray, this ended up being nearly 450 degrees by thermoprobe.  For the Moreninha I wanted to ensure that the fruitiness was still evident so I ended those batches safely in the Full City range at 445 degrees.  Since I was roasting slightly smaller batches than normal the roast times were right around 14 minutes.

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my last scaa post, i swear…

I am off to the El Salvador Cup of Excellence for a week, then on to Costa Rica and Panama (Ben and Maria are joining me for the later two!). But here is a video of little clips from the SCAA show.

It’s better to go to youtube and click the HQ button to see it in better resolution.

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If you’re in Atlanta beware…



If you’re in Atlanta beware., originally uploaded by sweetmarias.

So I had a grumpy commentary about the SCAA and the elitist, high-priced Symposium that preceded it in particular. You can read all that here: http://www.sweetmarias.com/scaa_images/SCAA_Atlanta_2009.html

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Crazy coffee tasting competition at scaa.

So this coffee taster competition (SCAA US Cup Taster’s Championship!)
seemed ridiculous and I dismissed it
out of hand as a dog and pony show. But upon seeing it I thought it
was pretty cool and wish I had tried my hand at it. It seems really
hard and it’s not really cupping at all. It is done with brewed coffee
and you are given 3 cups and must choose which is different :
triangulation cupping. The winner was Ben Kamisky.

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$caa in hotlanta

We’re off to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (scaa) conference in scintillating “Hotlanta” today. In a way, I wonder why I go. I count among the disaffected, I suppose. At one time “Specialty Coffee” really meant something, defining itself in opposition to commercial/industrial grade coffee. Now there are so many things crammed under the roof of Specialty, it’s hard not to feel squeezed out. I don’t know what we are … Fourth Wave, Micro-Lot Specialists, DIY … it always seems silly to think of such terms and even sillier to apply them. Maybe it’s my history. Since I am from an artsy background, it reminds me of photography, which was (supposedly) my field of focus. Photography as a technical skill gives you a lot to talk about with other photo geeks, bracketing half-stops, and backlight compensation. But when it comes to the ideas, what you really do, well, you might be better off talking to your pet dog than most photo people; just because you share a method doesn’t mean you have shared goals. It’s like that with the coffee trade. You could sit next to a fellow coffee buyer on a plane trip to an origin country, and have nothing substantial to talk about but the weather. Of course, the opposite can be true to, which is why I still go to the $caa, armed with a dim hope. In reference to my crafty use of the $, I have to consider this: what furthers our ability to find better coffees to offer our customers, $3000 spent going to the scaa (Josh comes too), or $2500 spent on a great origin trip, cupping, visiting farms, understanding local issues, forming new relationships. For sweet maria’s it’s the later, of course. Two footnotes to this grumpy post: a. I volunteer to help roaster trainings and cupper trainings at scaa and I find that worthwhile for me and others, and b. the branch of the scaa called the Roasters Guild, especially the intensive RG retreat each year, is very, very worthwhile.
Incidentally, I will try to send a couple pictures to the web log from there 1. an image of the stupidest coffee product I find (there will be a lot of competition in this category) and 2. something new that is actually sensible and of good quality. That might be tough.

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Roast Coffee Pairing #9: I Can Name that Coffee In One Cup!

We’re having a little bit of fun with this week’s roast pairing and you are only supposed to be reading this post if you’ve already tried both coffees.  Take a guess as to what origin you think these two coffees are from.  Both were roasted to the same level, somewhere between City+ and FC.  In coffee #1 you should notice a nice brightness in this very clean, lively cup.  There is also a lovely floral quality and great medium body out of this Wet Processed lot.  Do you know what it is?  Answer: Sulawesi AA Wet-Process Toarco.  That’s right this is a Sulawesi coffee with as much in common with a Guatemala flavor profile as other Sulawesi coffees.  Which brings us to coffee #2.  Here we have a much more robust bodied coffee with earthy qualities that should be much easier to figure out.  Can you tell where it is from?  Answer: Sulawesi Enrekang “Mt. Alla”.   We were really trying to fool you all in to thinking that the Toarco was from a different region because it is the most radically different Sulawesi we’ve ever found.  There is a striking difference between the Wet-Process that is done with the Toarco, and the Wet-Hulling that is done with the “Mt. Alla”.  The former creates a very clean, brilliant cup while the latter leads to a more brooding, rustic cup.  Hopefully you enjoy having two such different coffees from the same spot on Earth, please let us know on the RoastBlog what you think of this mystery roast idea.  It is a good way to challenge your coffee knowledge and encourages a greater understanding of how processing plays such a key role in the cup results.

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cups of excellences

Take a look over to the right column of this here humble “BLOG” and you see our latest arrivals of coffee. Lo and Behold! Actual lots from the Rwanda and Bolivia Cup of Excellence competitions. As the coffee buyer and cupper here at SM, even I can’t quite believe they actually arrived. Sometimes it seems that the deliveries of these lots take longer and longer and longer. When was I at the Rwanda CoE? Last August? What month is it now, April? Lordy. The good news is this: we have been vacuum packing all of our CoE lots, and they are cupping incredibly good, super clean, vividly bright. Be they tardy as all get out, vacuum packaging has been the savior of these long lost lots, and they are just as they were on the cupping table at the event. The reviews are thorough, check them out … -Tom

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