Sweet Maria's Weblog

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

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

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

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: 1 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!) 2 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...