Tips on how to read our reviews in order the find a replacement for a favorite green coffee…
Monthly Archive for February, 2011
I reported before on our involvement in the Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative. This is a project funded primarily by coffee roasters to advance research into improving coffee quality, and improving the volume of quality coffee produced in the world. It’s not as if there is a lack of great coffee out there, but we are definitely on the threshold of seeing production of really good arabica drop, given greater consumption and agricultural issues with pernicious pest and disease. And, despite the nay-sayers of global warming, everywhere I go farmers are commenting on changes in their local climate and how it impacts their crop.
I am lucky; I am sitting on the preliminary Research Planning Committee for the GCQRI and the nascent projects I am hearing about are intriguing. Quite a few projects involve scientific collaboration to bring new technology to the old methods of the coffee industry. NIRS (Near Infrared Spectrophotometry) is a newer tool for analyzing chemical markers and has already yielded breakthroughs in coffee research. Under GCQRI, one possible project is to form an open NIRS Database of Quality Coffee samples from all growing areas. New samples could be submitted by roasters for cost-effective and complete analysis of all the complex factors that contribute to flavor and quality, and then the sample would be indexed among all other known samples from that region, providing a global context for understanding differences in coffee flavor. It ties right into another project, described as such “Identify Main green coffee candidate molecules strongly impacting quality.” Yes, it is true. We don’t know what it is in coffee that makes it taste good. Using older techniques, we have some pretty good ideas, but many things have been left. Coffee is just so darn complex. The project design would involve rapid screening techniques on the thousands of metabolites in coffee and then set out to correlate and identify those related specifically to cup quality. When we know that, we know how to test for quality components in future studies.
Another project along the same lines involves sensory evaluation, cupping as we call it. The project is called NextGen Coffee Sensory Evaluation. Traditional descriptive cupping has it’s place; it’s how we find coffee we like, and describe it to our customers. And some biochemical screening techniques have come along lately. (Everyone recalls the press for the “electronic nose” a couple years back). But what about relating the two in order to form a broader understanding of coffee quality. In the current methods, humans do not reliably attain repeatable results in sensory analysis (I am talking about the kind of cupping that can be a basis for scientific study of coffee quality, not the kind of cupping for someone to find and describe flavors). On the other hand, current chemical evaluations might tell us if a compound is present, but doesn’t tell us what that means … and there being a lack of understanding of which core compounds relate to quality, how do we know what we are looking for? So this new technique would involve a panel of tasters that would calibrate and agree on levels of quality and flavor attributes, then run the sample through a battery of these new, rapid techniques to validate the finding.
Repeat this, and you find out exactly what chemical components are behind flavor attributes that coffee roasters find valuable. When these findings are informed by the other two project approaches I already mentioned, you form a much greater understanding of exactly what it is we find desirable in a good cup of coffee, which can then be used to discover ways to grow higher quality coffee in the producing countries.
You might ask yourself, why doesn’t all this exist already? It might, but it would be locked in a vault at Nestle in Switzerland. And nobody else has had the means to define and fund research that centers entirely on coffee quality. Producing countries focus on fighting disease and pests, and on higher yields. Both of these are important, but in the absence of a buyer’s regard for taste quality, we end up with hybrids that have robusta genes; Catimor, Sarchimor, CR-95, Ruiru 11, Castillo, Etc. It’s only this type of collaboratively funded research that can pool resources to address the concerns of quality-oriented coffee business, and by extension, all those who drink coffee because it tastes good.
Those who lift a cup of coffee to their lips and think “Boy this tastes like an economically-produced large-scale agricultural product” or “Boy, this Insant coffee is awful but I saved myself 11 minutes I would have wasted grinding and brewing a good-tasting coffee” … well, we just can’t help you. That’s the coffee experience of the ’60s and early ’70s before the rebirth of the small roaster, and we don’t want to go back to that! You can find the GCQRI site here.
-Tom posted at Sweet Maria’s Weblog
Coffee Ceremony! Newly added: Colombia Tolima -Miguel Ospina Microlot, Costa Rica Manantiales -Finca Fidel, Ethiopia Harar Longberry , and Ethiopia Sidama Bonko. It’s a fearsome foursome. Here’re the key notes: the Colombia Tolima -Miguel Ospina Microlot from the ASOCEAS coop is an elegant blend of fruits with vanilla-honey tones as well. We are limiting this small lot to 1-lb orders. The Costa Rica Manatiales Finca Fidel is a versatile coffee and a lively cup with florals, peach iced tea, and praline in the cup. And finally, we have two sure hits from Ethiopia. The Ethiopia Harar Longberry has a good body with cinnamon, and tea in the cup. At darker roasts, look for a hint of leather amongst rustic chocolate. The Ethiopia Sidama Bonko is a brighter cup with clear and light body, fennel cookie and a confectionery sugar taste.
Here is a comparison of two African coffees at their best: the Ethiopia Sidama Bonko is light and sweet, while the Rwanda Remera Nyarusiza is floral with good mouthfeel. Both were kept in the light roast range at City+ with final roast times of about 14:30 and temperature of 422 and 425 respecitively. Tasting the Ethiopia Bonko there is a light sweetness that literally tastes like powdered sugar dissolved in hot water while the Remera has more body and definite floral hints with a bit more balance than the Bonko. We are becoming huge fans of these clean and sweet African coffees and hope to continue to see outstanding lots such as these with all the progressive programs that work to ensure coffee quality and equality in dealing with farms, mills, and cooperatives. Enjoy this pairing, my favorite one we’ve ever done!
We are pretty excited to present our new Sweet Maria’s logo scoops. I know it is a lowly scoop, and of course weighing out coffee is always better than dosing by volume. But we live in the real world. And it has our name on it! Woot.
The Disk; A permanent Aeropress filter by Coava
A permanent addition for your Aeropress, to use rather than the stock paper filters. It changes the brew slightly, a bit more body and intensity for most coffees. But the cup is clean, not gritty like other permanent filters or like French Press coffee can be sometimes.
Back In Stock: The Baratza Maestro Plus
A Few Coffees More! We added Java Kajumas Organic Taman Dadar, Ethiopia Sidama WP Decaf, Costa Rica West Valley WP Decaf and Brazil Organic Fazenda Colina. Here is the quick run-thru: The Java Taman Dadar is very Sumatra-like, brooding and rustic so Mandheling fans should take note. The Brazil Organic Fazenda Colina is a nicely balanced cup which can also be roasted dark for SO espresso. Also, new decafs today: The Ethiopia Sidama WP Decaf which entered the decaf process as a fruited dry-process Ethiopian has nicely balanced profile after wet process decaffeination with plum fruit and milk chocolate. In the Costa Rica West Valley WP Decaf, look for fudgesicle and lively lemon accents. Check out Tom’s full reviews!
Triple pick! We have 3 great new ones today: Papua New Guinea Baroida Plantation, Guatemala San Juan Sacatepequez – Villa Lupe, and Colombia Finca Buenavista -Carlos Imbachi. The Papua New Guinea Baroida Plantation is a mix of dry and fresh fruit, with spice and ginger tones. This coffee is from a third generation family farm utilizing our Farm Gate pricing. Alert! Guatemala San Jose fans should take note: our new Guatemala San Juan Sacatepequez – Villa Lupe is from the same region with well-structured citric fruit and candy-like notes. This also makes a great SO espresso! Last up is a limited offering of the popular Colombia Finca Buenavista -Carlos Imbachi. Folks will remember this sweet cup profile with guava, peach, tamarind, and cane sugar. (It was also an award winner at SCAA in 2009/10) We are limiting sales to 5-lbs so everyone gets to try it this year!
The Java Kopi Sunda is the result of a special project, and is a very special coffee indeed; less like a typical Indonesian coffee, more like a washed Island profile coffee, mild and sweet. This is likely due to the wet processing, rather than the wet hulled processing typical of Indonesian coffees. Shows a completely different face on Indonesian coffee. The Papua New Guinea AA Kimel is another wet processed coffee, clean, sweet, with fruited notes. So this pairing of atypical Indonesia coffees display characteristics not normally associated with this region: bright, fruit forward flavor profiles. The Java lot has more dark fruit notes with bittersweet chocolate, while the PNG is clearer and brighter. They both have slight hints of foresty flavors that remind you where they were grown but we love the chance to taste so much wonderful clean fruit from these historic coffee growing regions.