Apr – May 2005: New Crop Centrals; Whose Taste Matters?; Moving Again

New Crop Centrals
We are finally getting into the season where new crop Central American coffees, from Mexico down to Panama (and all points in between), arrive. There are usually a couple unexpected early coffees. Due to weather patterns, it is possible for an entire region’s crop to ripen early and therefore a high quality Central might arrive in early March. But the higher-altitude coffee cherry matures later, and the mid-crop pickings represent the truly top coffees from any particular region. Call this mid-crop, heart-ofthe- harvest, or what have you. What it means is that, while you can buy a new crop Costa Rican in early January, these are lowgrown coffees that are rushed through processing. They are at best unremarkable. Some areas of Costa Rica are indeed early
this year, and La Minita came in late March (usually it is a late April arrival). I look around at other roasters and green coffee people at this time, and see offerings of Antigua from Guatemala, or Panama Boquete estate coffees, and I know they are either past crop coffee, or they were pushed too hard through preparation to get them up to the states. Good coffee needs to be rested from 20-60 days after the patio-drying stage. As for the older lots, a coffee like a Panama from Boquete is way past it’s prime, and while green coffee stores well, comparing new crop from Lerida (due mid-April) and past crop is a very dramatic difference in cup quality. In terms of checking for arriving coffees before they are on our Offer List, you can check my Cupping Log (link at the bottom of all coffee review pages), which shows all the samples I evaluate daily. This includes the “offer samples” I get from farms, the “pre-shipment approval samples” sent when the coffee is ready to hit the water, and the “arrival samples” when the coffee is unloaded in Oakland. Then I cup the coffees again when we receive the bags at the shop, to write the final reviews and make roasting recommendations. PS: We are also starting to receive new crop Kenya Auction Lots, and have about 6 lots already arranged for this year. This includes a later crop arrival of the winning coffee from the 2005 East African Coffee Conference held in Zambia this year! Look for it in early June

Whose Taste Matters?
The answer is simple: Yours! Common sense dictates that no one else can establish your tastes for you, nor would you trust anybody to do so. The problem is that while I appreciate the fierce independence of those who trust no one, especially a self-proclaimed advanced-level coffee taster (me), I want to make a couple comments about why you should invest some time reading my reviews, and why you should source your green coffee from us. What I do is entirely different from other green coffee suppliers. That’s rather evident simply from the volume of text about coffee on our web site and from the care put into each review. There is a quality to our work, the attention invested in sourcing coffee, participating as a judge in the competitions, traveling to source, and the attention to the cup quality of each lot, that is unique too. From my perspective, at a vantage point physically near one of the largest coffee ports in the U.S., seeing a constant flow of coffee samples across my cupping table, I see the part of the coffee picture cropped outside the image presented to the consumer. That’s what I try to share, the wider view of the shocking quantity of coffee being freighted into the U.S., the increasingly higher percentage of it that can legitimately be called “Specialty Coffee”, and the very small fraction of that which is truly good. All that coffee finds a home, all those millions of pounds of so-so Sumatra Mandheling Grade One, or Costa Rica Tarrazu Such-and-Such Estate. It can be sold with all the accolades, the fancy bag, the impressive name, and the suggestive description as coffees that are truly good. But it’s not. Why? Maybe it is good enough? Maybe it would suit your palate, (which we agree is the one that matters), though it fails to suit mine. Well, let’s talk about my taste. I have never made any claim to being a supra-sensitive cupper. I don’t have more papilla on my tongue, I don’t know beans about wine, I am not a food snob. I have a degree in art, not tasting. What I have done is cup coffee and work very hard at paying attention to what I am tasting. I have done this every day, for years now. Sometimes it’s just a couple samples, sometimes it’s six or eight. Other times it’s 20 samples, all from the same origin country, the same district, the same side of the hill! At a competition the judges will evaluate as many as 200 separate cups in a day. When you reach a point where you can feel your taste buds hurting like sore biceps toward the end of a workout, when your mouth really seems more like a “thing”, like a tool, then part of your body … that is the result of the work of tasting. It’s work, often times fun work, other times most definitely not. What I am trying to do is stay true to my common sense, what I truly experience in the cup, the shades of flavor that create a “taste image” in my mind, and to represent that in words. If the terms seem ridiculous, if you don’t get the “toasted almond, crisp acidic snap, abrupt but clean finish” in a coffee, I can make this statement in my defense: I truly did. And those qualities raised the coffee above the standard cup character of the many other samples I evaluated, and registered it in my “taste memory” from previous cuppings, from previous years, as an exceptional coffee from that particular origin. Reputation or a past offering from an origin is no guarantee that the current offering is as good. I also wish to point out that I do not use superlatives in reviews, nor do I describe coffees in whimsical ways. What I mean is that I never call a coffee “the finest,” nor do I describe it with analogies to things you cannot smell or taste (I don’t say “this is the Cadillac of cups” or “the X-Games of coffees” … which I have seen used). But I do really, really, really like the coffees I find and choose to put on the Offer List, and the enthusiasm in the descriptions is sincere. As far as the numbers, I wish I could just erase them all. Numbers do not tell the story of a coffee, they don’t explain how it is good, the quality of the cup. They are supposed to describe a “quantity of goodness” and that is an oxymoron. I must use the numbers to score all the samples I evaluate, I need the numbers, and I know readers want to see them too. But if you bought coffee by simply looking at a range of point scores, you would not be doing much better than someone who closed their eyes and pointed at the Offer List. Why in the world would I write this text? Because I have a healthy skepticism about this occupation, a mild distrust of “experts,” more than a little contempt for “connoisseurship” when it is not rooted in personal experience, and a need to be understood. When our new cupping room is built, there will be no better way to engender an “understanding of taste” than having you come cup coffee with me. -Tom

Moving Again
It’s not like the last time … returning to California from Ohio. But we are moving again in late April. This time, we are relocating to our new building in West Oakland. We leased the building in Emeryville, and this one we bought. (It’s a good time to thank you all, our loyal customers, because in a way your continued orders made this possible!) Besides being even closer to the main coffee warehouses at the Port of Oakland, the new building is more spacious and will include a cupping room that fits more than one occupant (me). That means we can have some group cuppings when the occasion arises, something many of you have asked about. Now, this will take a bit longer because the cupping room is not built yet. First we get moved in, then we will fill in some of the blanks. We will close for a few days during the move, and will post the dates in advance on the web site. Also, I have been extremely busy running between the two places, getting everything ready. As some of you know, we are chronic do-it-yourselfers … perhaps the term pathological would apply here. We have done much of the construction, cleaning and finishing work on the space ourselves. It was a very nice, clean space … well, considering it’s last use was tire retreading! So if we sound a little more stressed, or I drop the ball on an email correspondence, please resend the message and know we mean well.

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA 94607
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: [email protected]
Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List on April 10, 2005.
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu -Conquistador $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Costa Rica La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Costa Rica Organic -La Amistad $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
El Salvador CoE Lot #15 La Montanita $6.00 $11.40 $26.70 $96.00
El Salvador CoE Lot #19 Montecarlos PB $5.90 $11.21 $26.26 $94.40
Guatemala Organic Coban – El Tirol $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemala Barillas -Nuevo Bullaj Coop $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Mexico Chiapas -Udepom Co-op $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Mexico HG Oaxaca Pluma $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
1020-South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Bolivia Organic – Cenaproc Coop $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Brazil Cerrado -Lot 141 Wagner Ferrero $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Brazil Cerrado -Lot 142 Carlos Piccin $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Brazil Cerrado -Lot 144 Edsin Nobuyasu $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Brazil Fazenda Ipanema “Dulce” $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 $66.22
Colombian Huila Supremo $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 $66.22
Colombian Organic Mesa de los Santos $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Peru Organic/Fair Trade Chanchamayo $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Organic/Fair Trade Harar $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian Org/FT Yirgacheffe $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Kenya AA Auction Lot – Kangocho $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86
Kenya AA Auction Lot 707 -Ithima $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Rwanda Gatare Grade A $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Tanzania AAA Songea $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.50 $14.25 $34.88 $120.00
Zimbabwe AAA+ Dandoni Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar Coehlo’s Gold $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Pearl Mountain MNEB NUGGETS $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Indian Pearl Mountain Peaberry $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Java Government Estate – Blawan $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Papua New Guinea – Arokara AA $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Papua New Guinea – Kimel $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Sulawesi Toraja Grade One $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Timor Organic Maubesse $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Sumatra Lintong Dry-Process $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Sumatra Gr.1 Mandheling DP $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Sumatra Organic Gr. 1 Gayo Mountain $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Australia Mountain Top Estate XF $10.40 $19.97 $48.36 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona -Moki’s Farm $17.40 $33.41 $80.91 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona -Purple Mountain Farm XF $17.00 $32.64 $79.05 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona -Purple Mountain Farm F $16.50 $31.68 $76.73 5 lb limit
Jamaica Blue Mountain -Mavis Bank $18.90 $36.29 $87.89 5 lb limit
Puerto Rico AA-19+ Yauco Selecto $9.85 $18.91 $45.80 5 lb limit
SM’s Moka Kadir Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
SM’s Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
SM’s Decaf Espresso Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
SM’s Liquid Amber Espresso Blend $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
SM’s French Roast Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Puro Scuro Blend $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
SM’s Roasted French Chicory $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
African Highland WP Decaf Blend $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Brazil Mogiana WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Colombian WP Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Costa Rican Tres Rios WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian WP Decaf (DP Sidamo) $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Guatemala Huehuetenango WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Indian Monsooned WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Indonesian Organic SWP Komodo Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Kenya AA WP Decaf $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86
Mexican Oaxaca Tres Oros WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Nicaragua Segovia WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Peru Org/FT WP Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.35 $10.17 $23.27 $82.39
Sumatra Natural Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sumatra WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Robusta -Cannoncadoo Estate $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Indian Robusta -Devaracadoo Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Ugh! -This Is Baggy $0.70 1 lb limit