Sweet Maria's Weblog

Colombia, Brazil, Robusta!

More arrivals to post to the list, two South Americans and a surprisingly drinkable robusta: Brazil Cachoeira Yellow Canario Bourbon, a complex cup with a velvety feel and malted/cocoa at lighter roasts. Again, our recommendation is to keep this somewhat atypical Brazil light in roast. Next up, the fruits of our continuing Colombian Microlot project: Colombia "Platos Fuertes de Huila" MicroLot Mix, a blend of smaller micro-lots from Huila, light and effervescent with apricot tastes. And lastly, an interesting and relatively clean Robusta for your espresso blends: India Robusta - Jeelan Estate Nirali. And you can see new coffees listed on the weblog over in the right column, and subscribe to new coffee announcements via RSS.

Roast Coffee Pairings #12: Africanized: Taste the Future.

Roast Coffee Pairings #3: Africanized: Taste the Future. Wet-process coffees from Africa can be surprisingly different: Kenyas are over-the-top acidic, while Rwandas have clean and balanced flavor profiles. The Burundi Kayanza Bwayi No.7 lot is quite similar to the latter: it is sweet, faultless, and has the beautiful aroma you might find in Rwandan Bourbon coffees. Ugandas are something quite different; generally available as large, homogenized lots, Ugandas have a rustic fruity sweetness. I happened to find this large lot (Uganda Organic Bugisu) with really nice lemony cup character, a rarity in Uganda. For this pairing, I thought it would be interesting to look at these two, very different lots side-by-side to compare the cup flavors, and to see a bit of the future. Within the next few years I think we will see micro-regional Uganda offerings, as we have this year for the first time from Burundi, and as we did beginning several years ago from Rwanda. While these are both wet-processed coffees, roasted to the same City+ level (424 f bean temp measure on Probat roaster), they are quite different. The Uganda is a nice cup, and more typical of East African coffees. It's a little funky, has heavier body, fruit and a slight herbal quality. The Burundi really shows the potential of East Africa; it's a bourbon cultivar (like much of Rwanda coffee) and a very dense bean. It has zero defects (the Uganda had some under-ripes, some quakers, which we manually removed to some degree), and a refined cup. It reminds me more of a wet-process Central than an African coffee, with clean crisp brightness, raisin fruit note, lighter body. I wouldn't score one of these higher than the other because in their own right, each cup is excellent. But the Uganda tastes more like a dry-process coffee with it's definite fruitiness, and the Burundi is a very well prepared wet-process from a great varietal. - Tom

Central America Travelogues, Coffee Cultivar Photoset

Coffea Liberica Coffee Cultivars: Here is a collection of images from my travels of many different types of varietals. I thought it would be interesting to pull all these together into one page ... well, 3 pages since there are so many of them. Central America Travelogues and pictures ...Ben and Maria met me in Costa Rica for a Central America Family Coffee get-together, and then we all went to the Best of Panama competition in Boquete. During and after the 2009 El Salvador Cup of Excellence, I visited some of our important coffee sources, such as Aida Batlle's Kilimanjaro farm, and Vickie Dalton's Finca Matalapa. Here's some photos of my El Salvador Travels . And here are the El Salvador Cup of Excellence 2009 photos. Woo!

the SM Forum is up

We are launching our new Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting Forum in advance of the long weekend. It is meant to supplement the email home roast list and to preserve the good discussions we have on focused topics - discussions that are useful for the new roaster and the experienced roaster alike. Please take a look at the forum, sign up so you can secure your username, and let us know what you think! -Tom

Gesha - is it all that?

I cupped the auction samples for the Tuesday auction of Panama Esmeralda Especial, their Gesha (or Geisha as everyone else writes it) lot selections. I guess being the most celebrated coffee of a celebrated cultivar has its downside, and it's easy to take shots at Esmeralda Gesha when it isn't anything but a 95+ point coffee. But the lots this year showed the full range of qualities, which oddly ended up ranked in order from lot 1 to 7 as they are in the auction. 1-4 lots are solid coffees, 5-7 are second tier... well, 7 is maybe even third tier Gesha with muddled character. But it begs the question; how good is great Gesha and how good is average, lower-grown Gesha. It's a question that came up often at the Best of Panama competition (see my video listed below). Do we compare Gesha only to itself, where the lower grown lots suffer in scores, or globally to all other coffees, where even the lower grown lots score well, be they a bit murky and ill-defined in cup character? Should we compare them to fine washed Ethiopia coffees, which bear some resemblance in terms of flavor (jasmine, berry, bergamont, light body, etc)? And this leads to the question of how to price Gesha. Is it 3x better than a great Yirgacheffe, and therefore deserving triple the price? How should a mediocre Gesha be priced, when it is still a very interesting cup ... and doesn't that price encourage everyone to plant this type, even when they have no hope of growing great Gesha? And how will it be priced in the future when everybody and their uncle grows it? (They already do - wait a couple years for all this Gesha to come into production!) Did anyone else see the NY Times article about the P'ur Tea price bubble in China and think not a little about the Gesha bubble? All I can say is that the 95+ point Gesha of last year does not exist, I believe, in the small harvest of this crop. Sure, the Esmeralda is great, but is it like the #2 lot in last years auction, or the #3 peaberry? Wasn't the #6 lot we offered at around $10 last season still a really nice cup, be it not the best Gesha ever? It gives me pause, since I am sitting here at home on the weekend trying to brew the #1 lot in the Tuesday auction, trying to get a great result in Vacuum pot, Aeropress, Pour-over, and ... well... it's a nice coffee, but not the 93.5 I gave it in my cupping room Friday. So it's not just about asking whether the marketplace should encourage this, should pay this, should endorse it. I am asking myself how I should behave as well, and what best serves our customers. I don't want to be part of any bubble, to wake up some morning and regret being involved in hype. I am not saying the Gesha phenomenon is that, but it's a good question that I need to ask myself, and I hope others do as...