Sweet Maria's Weblog

Import Partners and Direct Trade

May 23, 2017

If you've ever visited our warehouse, you may have noticed coffee bags with logos other than the "Sweet Maria's", or our sister wholesale business "Coffee Shrub" logos. These are the bag marks of exporters and importers who provide us with logistics services to get our coffees to the Port of Oakland.

A long time ago, we considered doing our own importation. It's not that difficult. But it can also be a major distraction when things go wrong. We realized after a few containers we arranged ourselves, that wrestling with the importation logistics wasn't worth the effort, or the risk. And those shipments were for merchandise over relatively easy transit lines, unlike the routes that serve coffee ports.

In brief, we find using coffee importers as "logistics service providers" allows us to focus our efforts on what we're good at, like selecting the best possible coffees we can. Plus, in the shipping world, volume counts. If we use an importer who is already moving many containers from a place like Colombia, buying coffee for their own "Spot" position (meaning, the coffee is not pre-sold, but available for purchase from a storage facility in the US), or bringing in coffee for bigger clients like Green Mountain or Starbucks, they have clout to get things moving promptly. What incentive does a shipping line like Maersk have to deal with our 1 container (40k lbs) versus 10 containers from Olam, Ecom, or Volcafe?


From Bags of Coffee to Bricks of Panela

April 12, 2017

This is a photo of one of several bricks of panela sugar we brought back from a Colombia visit, November 2016. Panela is common in most parts of Latin America where sugarcane is grown, produced by reducing sugarcane juice over a fire, then cooling into solid cubes using tin molds. (In Mexico they call this "piloncillo"). It's used interchangeably with refined sugar, but the flavor is quite different, imparting complex flavors in common sweets like sugar cookies, lemonade, and more.

Sometimes we use the term "panela" to define a coffee's sweetness, signaling the complex flavor and aroma found in the sugar itself, rather than the simplicity of table sugar or even brown sugar (which is just refined white sugar with molasses added back in). Depending on whether tasting dark or light, flavor notes span the range of molasses to caramel, and aromatics that verge on floral.

Some of the coffee farmers we buy coffee from grow sugarcane as well, and make panela bricks to sell locally. This particular block is from a farmer named Humberto Cortez in La Plata, Huila. He's a member of a local cooperative we buy coffee from, and whose coffee was included in a regional blends from our most recent container. Lucky for us, Humberto sold us 22 kg of his panela in addition to a few bags of his coffee!  -Dan


We don't sell panela but we do sell coffees that have panela notes. CLICK HERE to check out our offerings (current and out-of-stock) that remind us of this brown brick of sugar.

Sweet Maria's Roasting Basics Class. April 13th.

Mar. 30, 2017

Interested in roasting your own coffee? You are invited to our first ever in-house DIY coffee roasting class.

Since it’s our first time hosting an event like this, we are keeping it simple and will show you how to roast with an electric hot air popcorn popper. If you have never roasted coffee before, we plan on giving you all the info you need to get started with a popper and a few other items you might already have.

It's free but the class size is limited so please register early.


Thursday, 4/13/2017
2pm - 2:45pm

Sweet Maria’s Warehouse
2823 Adeline St.

Oakland, CA 94608

Email Byron at byron@sweetmarias.com to register.

Cups! Cups! Cups!

Mar. 22, 2017

We try not to obsess over cups too much. We do our best to refrain from carrying too many of them because after all, our main focus is coffee...but sometimes we can't help ourselves when we see some that can't resist. Here's a quick guide to the cups we carry. Take a look...and rememember to stay focused on the coffee.