Dec 2000: Here Comes The New Crop; In Defense of Cupping

It’s true that coffee produced around the world arrives in the United States continuously, but there are certain moments in the crop cycle when the best coffees become available. This varies based on origin, but by coincidence many favorites arrive in the first few months of the new year.
I always look forward to the new crop Sumatra coffees. The earliest shipments arrive in December and are often the most wild, pungent and aggressive in cup character. It seems the sweeter, fruitier Sumatras come in February or later, but if you like the type of Sumatra that is a bit funkier and a bit obnoxious, here they come. The first lot we approved arrives December 10.

Other Indonesian origins arrive a bit before the Sumatras: Sulawesi, Timor, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Java. They are all looking good this year with the exception of the PNG, which a high quality and distinct cup has been a bit hard to find. There has been considerable coffee looting of the Timor crop too, one reason we continue to give donations to the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders efforts there! But the quality is high. Starbucks is reported to have done their own form of looting of these crops, making them more scarce than last year …but the best examples were offered and we snatched up everything we could! Sulawesi again wins the award as the “best prepared natural coffee”, meaning the green beans are impeccably milled and sorted. They are the anti-Sumatra, the later known for is ruddy appearance and an occasional rock or stick or ??? The earliest new crop Central Americans are offered in January and February. I like to cup the samples but I rarely buy coffee from these offerings. Whereas some early offerings are excellent, the early-picked Centrals are rushed to market to beat the later glut. They are usually lower-grown (coffee cherry ripens first at lower elevations) and often poorly-prepared, sometimes rushed through reposo with mechanical drying machines. (Reposo: the resting stage when the green coffee seed is still in its outer hull, called pergamino, and is carefully dried down to about 12% moisture content.)

We should also see some late, late December offerings of Zimbabwe, Zambian, Ugandan, Tanzanian and other East African coffees. These are all distinct origins but sometimes fail to distinguish them enough from the immense shadow cast by the East African powerhouse, Kenya. But when we find a distinct coffee in this group of origins, we buy it immediately!

Over time, I think our prowess in cupping and buying the best has only improved. Sometimes I feel I am more lax than before in cupping, but it seems that familiarity with the coffees and also being able to read the dry fragrances that foreshadow cup quality more rapidly allows a little slop. Hopefully our long-term customers can see improvements, even though there are cases were an entire crop simply does not measure up to the previous year. Even in these cases (Antigua and PNG come to mind), I think we still do quite well to offer coffees with excellent cup character.

In Defense of Cupping
It was very upsetting to read a recent article attacking the way coffee cupping, the testing of coffees we in the coffee trade rely upon so heavily, by a coffee trade author, Timothy Castle. The article seems to substitute contrariness for intelligent criticism when it characterizes the loathsome and haughty act of “slurping, spiting and pronouncing” as a form of inept justice that inflates the cupper’s ego and shows contempt for the farmer. Ironically, Timothy Castle and his milieu are perhaps called upon to perform such public cupping where chest-thumping and bucolic declarations are heard.

But for a person like me who seeks to stay close to cup quality, cupping is the exact opposite. If I don’t taste something, I don’t write about it. While I like to have fun with reviews, I stick to the facts. You wont read about a coffee experience being “running through a field of flowers” or such useful advise as “this is a coffee for people who watch the X-Games” on our site (but these are quotes from others coffee reviews). And frankly, it’s not a sin if I did write like that, or if that is how a coffee drinker feels about a coffee. In fact, if enjoyment such as this is not allowed to be interpretive and creative (and even in its most technical it is) it is at that point it becomes chest-thumping and preposterous. When we talk about coffee being “chocolatey” or “winey” it is not because it tastes as if someone literally dumped Hershey’s Cocoa Power or a glass of wine in the coffee. We says this because some quality of chocolate or wine is hinted at in the very complex tastes of the cup, and we say this in respect to the other cups of coffee on the cupping table, and in respect to all our experience distinguishing and describing coffee flavor.

And personally, I stick to what my beleaguered little taste buds can detect. I know for a fact that cupping allows me to say the things I do about coffee, and without it I would be an ass. Now, if it is a fact that there are arrogant cuppers in the world who have contempt for farmers and cant “walk their talk”, that’s just their problem. You can find Timothy Castle’s article reprinted on our site at

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
9 E. 2nd Ave Columbus Ohio 43201
email: [email protected]

Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 12/1/00:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page!
1000-Central America 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rica La Minita 99-00 $6.95 $13.21 $30.23 $111.20
Costa Rica Los Frailes Tarrazu $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guat. Antigua La Tacita Est $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Guat. El Injerto Estate Bourbon $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guat.Fraijanes Org.-La Montana $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Guat. Huehue -Dos Lagos $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Guat. Huehuetenango -Catinil $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guat. SHB HHT Maragogype $5.65 $10.74 $24.58 $87.01
Guat. Org/FT Huehuetenango $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Mexico Oaxaca -Fino Rojas $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Mexico San Pablo Tres Flechas $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Nic. SHG -Selva Negra Est $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Panama Boquete -La Berlina $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Panama Hartmann Songbird $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Salvador Organic-Los Naranjos $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Salvador Pacamara – $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
1020-South America 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Cerrado-Monte Carmelo $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Brazil Monte Alegre- Wet Proc. $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Colombian Popayan Supremo $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Reserva Del Patron $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Colombian Tuluni Supremo 18 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Peru Org/FT Chanchamayo $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
1040-Africa- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Harar Gr5 Horse $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Ethiopian Sidamo Gr.5 -00 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Gr2 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AA Kiungu Est 99-00 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Kenya AA Mweiga Est 99-00 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Yemen Mokha Mattari $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00
Yemen Mokha Raimi $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40
Zimbabwe AAA Pinnacle $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
1060-Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar AA $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Indian Pearl Mountain. Peaberry $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Aged Java – Old Brown ’97 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Java Govt. Est Blawan $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Myanmar Arabica -Rubyland $3.50 $6.65 $15.23 $53.90
Papua New Guinea Organic AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sulawesi Toraja Gr.1 00 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sulawesi Sulotco.-Wet Proc. $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Sumatra Mandheling DP ’01 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Sumatra Mand. Triple Pick $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Aged Sumatra Pwani $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Timor Organic Aifu 00 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
1080-Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Dominican.-Montana Verde Est $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
French Chicory -Roasted $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Hawaii Kona-Kowali Farm XF $16.20 $30.78 $70.47 $268.92
Hawaii Kona- Blue Mountain $17.10 $32.49 $74.39 $283.86
SM’s Moka Kadir Blend $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
SM’s Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Decaf Espresso Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Sweet Maria’s Fr.RoastBlend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Malabar Gold Espresso Blend $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
1100 -Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Colombian Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Costa Rica SHB Natural Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe MC Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Indonesian Komodo Org SWP D $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Mexican Esmeralda Natural D $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Mexican Organic/Shade SWP D $6.15 $11.69 $26.75 $94.71
Papua New Guinea Org SWP D $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Sumatra Mandheling Natural D $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Sumatra Org.GayoMtn SWP D $6.30 $11.97 $27.41 $97.02
1120 -Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Kaapi Royale Robusta $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Monsooned Robusta AA $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Mexican Washed Robusta $3.02 $5.74 $13.14 $46.51

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