Monthly Archive for October, 2010

New: Costa Rica Herbazu Yellow Honey, Panama Carmen 1900M, Kenya Kirinyaga Guama PB, Brazil Cerrado DP Aurea

Great new Coffees today: Costa Rica Herbazu Yellow Honey, Panama Carmen Estate 1900 Meters, Kenya Kirinyaga Guama Peaberry, and Brazil Cerrado DP Fazenda Aurea Let’s hit some key notes as we run down each of these. With the Costa Rica Herbazu Yellow Honey, we have a “Miel” process coffee with caramel, toffee, and honey as well as a bright and dynamic citric zing! Next is this season’s Panama Carmen Estate 1900M, a balanced cup with dense body, brown sugar, creme brulee and vanilla. We were able to obtain a small lot of Kenya Kirinyaga Guama Peaberry — limit is 10lbs. This is a bracingly bright cup with grapefruit, lemon, and rind notes. Last up is the return of Brazil Cerrado DP Fazenda Aurea with creamy body and nut tastes. Roast darker for espresso or to bring out the chocolate notes.

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Roast Coffee Pairing #48: Same Coffee, Different Roasts

This is one of my favorite pairing ideas combined with my favorite origin: Rwanda.  It is always so educational to roast the same coffee to two different roast levels, you challenge your skills to achieve two distinctly different roast levels.  The coffee reveals itself in unique ways when tasted with origin character to the fore at light roasts, and with roast tones more prevelant at darker roasts.  Today we used the Rwanda FT Dukunde Kawa Musasa roasted at City and Full City, 420 and 432 degrees respectively, 14 minute roast times.  This cup has such bright floral and citrusy zest that both roast levels are sweet and silky.  The City roast is a cheek puckering refresher, while the Full City roast has a more chocolate dipped fruit note happening.  I even tried brewing  a melange of the two roast levels and this was my favorite!  The best of both worlds.

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Everybody’s Doing It (Worrying About the Coffee Market)

The New York “C” market has risen above $2.00 for the first time since 1997, and that’s something worth commemorating here at Sweet Maria’s. We started in late 1997, and I remember that market well, and the long, slow, dramatic, depressing slide from that 1997 high down into the dark pit of the Coffee Crisis, which averaged around .50 cents. The driving forces in this great market instability now is different than previous peaks and valleys. Outside speculators who benefit from the risks of price fluctuations are in the driver’s seat, and actual coffee buyers are just the passengers these days. There’s talk of global shortages of coffee, that Colombia is not meeting it’s projected targets and Brazil is drinking more of their own coffee than ever before. Those real supply factors certainly have some fundamental impact. But the influence of pure speculation, and those seeking better place for money based on currency movements, is huge.

The rather comical thing is that people who buy coffee are clueless. I am clueless, but I am not referring to myself here; we’re insignificantly small and we don’t play the market either. I am talking about bigger companies who fix their contracts by buying futures, and coffee importers, traders, those types. Well, they don’t know either. Knowing something about coffee only gets you so far in a game where you might be moving pieces around the board and they might look like coffee, but it is the stack of cash in the players hands that is what it’s all about.

And what’s so bad about a $2.00+ coffee market. In some ways it is good. Incentive will be there for growers to plant more, and farm level prices are going to be higher … for now. But it is also a supreme disincentive to quality practices on all levels. 1.80 parchment price for coffee would motivate small producers to harvest with care, process well, and remove defects by hand. If the local buyer who cares naught about these things can now pay 1.80, why do the extra work? So, of course, we pay more to motivate and receive quality parchment coffee. Fine. Except this: we pay more because we care about coffee; that local buyer pays more because the warehouse in the capital needs coffee, because they have contracts at good prices, contracts that are pinned to the New York “C”, and will be replaced by new contracts that might be .30 cents more, or .30 cents less next time, or might go into free-fall. And the shockwave from those market fluctuations will reverberate back to the farmer in three ticks of the clock.

When we talk about Farm Gate coffee pricing (our version of Direct Trade) that has nothing to do with the global coffee prices in New York, I guess there is a perception we are going back to a pre-market agrarian hand-shake-over-the-fence deal. And in a lot of ways that image has been quite true for the 3 years we have had “Farm Gate” at SM. But, as I am pointing out here, we have to compete against the C, and we have to pay more to get quality coffee. We are, in many ways, as beholden to the C market as someone buying spot coffee based on the daily price. I think the difference is that if, and when, the bottom falls out of this coffee market, the farmer selling good quality parchment that ends up at SM won’t be getting a punch in the gut. And that fact is, our customers aren’t really going to see much change in pricing because we have already been paying far more … In Colombia for example we have been paying a high differential based on quality against a very competitive local market price for a long time. We haven’t sold a Colombia coffee for $5/lb at SM for years; they are spendy, more like $6-$6.50. They are also amazing quality. So that’s not going to be impacted much in the near future.

And I imagine when speculators find something more exciting to do with their money, the coffee market will become more stable. At whatever price level, stable is good for everyone …farmer and buyer.

(Here’s a pretty good description of some of the supply factors affecting the C market lately).

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New: Ethiopia Harar DP Biftu Genema, Papua New Guinea Wahgi PB, India Sanskriti Arabica

We have a trio of quite different coffees to add today! Ethiopia Harar Organic Dry Process Biftu Genema, Papua New Guinea Wahgi Peaberry, and India Sanskriti Arabica ”O Frabjous day!” was Maria’s exclamation (with a nod to her father and Lewis Carroll) and words certainly defy our excitement today. It’s what everyone’s been waiting for … Harar ! … We are adding the new Ethiopia Harar Organic Dry Process Biftu Genema today. Check out the review but look for complex chocolate, spice and notes of black tea and licorice. Don’t miss out on what may be the sole Harar this season and the first in a long time! Next is the early harvest Papua New Guinea Wahgi Peaberry. Look for bright notes and fruit jam sweetness in this blend of cultivars from PNG. We’ll look to later usual Kimel arrivals but this is a special early lot. Lastly is a region we haven’t stocked in awhile, India. The India Sanskriti Arabica is a balanced cup with pecan, honey, and an apple brightness. It also has some Brazil-like qualities, very strange for a wet-process! … Check the full reviews!

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Cupping Green, Unroasted Coffee…..Yum

In this funny little experiment, Tom ground and brewed coffee at various stages from green to a City+ roast.  Check out the video below and click here for the photo gallery. We all had a chance to taste these and it is funny how one sample before first crack tasted a lot like a light roast commercial coffee. Awful, but familiar. The straight green coffee is just headache producing.   And unless you want to seriously compromise your grinder, I would not recommend grinding green coffee at home.

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New: Ethiopia DP Weshi Jimma,Nicaragua Segovia Regalo de Dios,Sulawesi WP Tana Toraja PB,Espresso Workshop 13: Grace Note

Happy Cuptober! — We have a few new coffees we’d like to tell you about: Ethiopia Dry Process Weshi Jimma, Nicaragua Nueva Segovia -Un Regalo de Dios, Sulawesi Wet-Process Tana Toraja Peaberry, and Espresso Workshop #13 – Grace Note.  The Ethiopian DP Weshi Jimma is flavor profile we get a lot of requests for: an African profile strong fruits, sweet spices, and chocolate at the darker roasts. Next is a Nicaraguan arrival that cups more like a Guat.: Nicaragua Regalo de Dios with apple and tea like tastes. Try this as an espresso too! Next up. we have the Sulawesi Wet-Process Tana Toraja Peaberry with a balanced taste reminiscent of Island coffees and bittersweet chocolate at darker roasts. Don’t glide past Tom’s new Espresso Workshop Edition: #13 – Grace Note. This delicately accented African blend has syrupy caramel and baker’s chocolate with other flavor hints peaking out as you vary your roast level. Check out the farm descriptions and full reviews!

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Screening Screens

We recently began looking for a replacement for the nylon french press screens that we stocked for so long.  Our supplier on that item went out of business, so I asked another manufacturer to look into this.  They sent  samples of both nylon and stainless steel material to test.  We added the material to the filter assembly of a french press and compared the flavor and the amount of sediment each was capturing.  The stainless steel mesh seemed to do a better job on both counts,  reducing that over-extracted flavor that you can get from french press with too much sediment. I am not sure when I can offer these, but it ought to be no more than a few months.  The previous filters were nylon on a plastic frame, I think these will be stainless steel mesh.

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Roast Coffee Pairing #47: Sweet Home Costa Rica

There’s no place like home as Dorothy once said and there’s no origin like Costa Rica. Costa Rica is possibly the most advanced origin in its coffee cultivation and processing. Sweet Maria’s has a lot of potential samples when it comes to this region and Tom has sorted through them all to find some unique lots this season. On to the pairing … Look for a classic Tarrazu profile and flavor balance in the San Marcos: a perfect combination of brightness, fruit-laced chocolate, and zesty finish. It’s a complex cup, rounded mouthfeel, with ripe fruits and refreshing acidity.  Cafetalera Herbazu has some additional  brightness, trumping the San Marcos slighty in that column,  but with such a clean, refined sweetness. The aftertaste is a bit more brief, but it has a citrus zest, a real mouth cleaning, effervescent quality. These are lively coffees, without being sour in their acidity. And it seems a bit easy to call these both “sweet” coffees but after all, this is our “sweet home Costa Rica” pairing.  Both were roasted to City+, final temp 422, roast times of 15 minutes.

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