I posted a Costa Rica Micro Mill travelogue to the new/temporary Sweet Maria's image gallery site. I went on a whirlwind tour of Costa Rica small mills, basically a big shopping trip, looking for new contacts and outstanding coffees. I felt like it was a 8 day trip, but it was only 4 ... filled with cupping, farm and mill tours, hand shaking, back slapping, flim-flamming. Okay, not much of the later, but I can say for sure that the bar for quality has been raised, and there's a whole new approach to coffee in Costa Rica that should give hope to those jaded by neutral cup quality from giant container load "Specialty Coffee." The picture above is new coffee flower buds emerging for next years crop at Las Lajas, an organic farm in Alajuela/Poas area. -Tom
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Well, we haven't had Sumatra Classic Mandheling on offer for a while and now it is back and quite good this time around. Tom and I were talking about the methodology we use here at Sweet Maria's to determine which coffees to procure and offer up to our customers and this Sumatra is a good example of how selective we tend to be. In any given week Tom may cup half a dozen or more Sumatra coffees looking for the best lots with the right cup characteristics. The cupping room is normally piled high with sample trays, waiting to be cupped , I've seen weeks when Tom is cupping as many as 40 different samples in one week! Out of that amount he might chose only 3 or 4 coffees to add to our list. So, I think our methodology comes down to two main factors: freshness of the lot, and cup quality (duh!). All of our offerings are current crops and we start to get nervous about freshness if we've had a coffee for as little as three months. And when it comes to cup quality, Tom always approaches cupping samples with a fresh palate and doesn't pick coffees based on the name on the bag or how good it was last season. It has to prove itself in the cup! Now, I know most of you know this stuff already and that is why you are even bothering to read this rambling rant. I just wanted to make sure we communicated as much as possible about how we do things differently here at Sweet Maria's. OK, back to the coffee we are roasting today: Sumatra Classic Mandheling. We sample roasted to four different levels and settled on the second darkest roast, which is right around FC. This coffee will taste great roasted even darker but we are going to try and steer clear of second crack this time around.
We were squirreling away a Panama lot for that window of time when new crop Centrals are a month or two away, and out selection starts to thin out. That time is now! PanamaÂ SHB Las Victorias is a Boquete region coffee, and cups clear and clean like the day it came in. We also have a superb E. Africa new crop arrival ... RwandaÂ Gkongoro Nyarusiza is a mouthful to pronounce, and a superb bright coffee in the cup, with Mandarin orange citrus sweetness, cherry blossom aroma, and great balance. It is pure Bourbon cultivar too. On a totally unrelated note, I got meself one of these fancy new MacPro 8 core super computers, and sure it's fast, but the keyboard is all amiss. I can't make question marks, colons, exclamation points ... how can I continue to post without my explanation points. All I can do is make ... these ... senseless ... ellipses ...
Josh did 4 levels of sample roasts of this natural Ethiopia on Friday and I cupped it early Monday morning ... so it was well-rested. The lightest roast, like many DP Ethiopias, is not a pretty sight; variation in bean-to-bean color. Hey, that's what dry-processed coffees are like. It's not a beauty contest here. They discovered long ago that it's much better pour the coffee into your mouth, not all over your eyes. Youch! After all most of us grind and drink this stuff, not admire the hue of the roasted bean (although a few people have turned espresso crema and latte art into a visual obsession). Where was I? Golocha. The fact is, the lightest roast had great dried apricot fruit to it, slightly winey, a touch of banana, a little mango, along with buttery roast notes. With each darker roast shade, that was eclipsed by other flavors, soft rustic chocolate tones. Not that chocolate is undesirable at any time, but tasting lively fruit fade through all the darker roast levels is the flavor equivalent of watching the sunset, and the lightest roast was akin to preserving that golden moment of shimmering intensity before the light fades into darkness. Yes, despite this overblown analogy, I basically mean it. (But seriously dude, don't pour the coffee over your eyes). -Tom