Mar – Apr 1999: Caveats of Buying Green Coffee; Lordy …Its the Mother Bean!

Caveats of Buying Green Coffee

The new crop Centrals have arrived, and I have some …but not much. Let me explain some of the caveats of buying new crop coffees.

While there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to buying green coffee, its generally better to wait for mid-crop pickings. The first coffees to arrive from any origin will come from the lowest altitudes on the farm, and therefore the coffee cherries will mature earlier. Lower altitude coffees have not properly developed, lacking bean density and often the full character of the origin.

Earliest arrivals of wet-processed (washed) coffees are also not “rested” as long as mid-crop or late-crop pickings. In the rush to get the coffees to market and meet roasters demands, this crucial step is cut short. Resting occurs after the coffee is depulped and dried. The coffee is still in it’s parchment, a hard shell, and is called pergamino at this stage (oftentimes the parchment shell itself is also called the pergamino).

Mills leave coffee in its pergamino stage until moisture content in the green seed drop to below 13%. Coffee shipped with higher moisture will mold or ferment, leading to taste taints in the cup.

Long-term storage in pergamino is also a way to save quality coffees for shipment to the consuming nation later in the crop year, and prevent the coffee from being stored in burlap in questionable environments; too hot, too cold, or in overly dry or humid warehouses. Pergamino acts as a natural barrier against moisture gain or loss, and coffees can actually improve their cup quality over time.

Consider our current stock of La Tacita Estate from Guatemala’s Antigua region. While the first pickings of Guatemalan coffees have already started to arrive (its early March as I write this). New crop La Tacita won’t be deliverable in the US until late June! La Tacita doesn’t offer early pickings.

I wont be receiving mid-crop Costa Rican Tarrazus from the Dota subregion until late April, even though I already have Tarrazu Popagayo. And here comes the exception to my early picking rule: if a sample is good in the cup, I get it! In this case, The Popagayo is actually from a late February shipment; the broker did not accept an offer of a January shipment which would truly be a early crop picking for an SHB (highest grade, highest altitude –Strictly Hard Bean). And the dreaded under-ripe taste, literally a leguminous green taste in the cup, was not present.

One concern I do have: coffee not rested as long as Estate or mid-crop coffees might become “baggy” tasting later in the year. Its only a suspicion, but I noticed a baggy taste in 2 samples recently that were early Centrals from the 97/98 crop as they became a year old.

A couple tips: don’t become obsessed with green coffee freshness. Remember, we are talking about a dried seed here, and if it has been properly cared for it is fresh for years (with the exceptions I just cited …but hey, I am not selling these types of coffees). Don’t think that a coffee I label “new crop” or 98/99 is necessarily better either; freshness can bring some life to the cup, but a good coffee, like wine, will age gracefully and can improve.

That said, I never advise customers to overstock on acidy Central American coffees, (or moist Indonesians too). Sure, be a packrat with a dense Yemeni that’s rare, but buy a 6 month supply at most. Sure it is god for 2 years, but there’s always a new interesting coffee on the horizon, and part of the adventure is to relish the coffees you enjoyed and look forward to origins and estates you haven’t yet explored.

Lordy …Its the Mother Bean!

I was shocked recently to snip open a 60 kilo bag (132 lb.) of Zimbabwe Peaberry and find something called Mother Beans inside! What’s a Mother Bean? Its a name in some growing regions (I hear its called Kahuna in Hawaii …as in Big Kahuna) for a oversized botanical mutation, not unlike the distorted Maragogype, but in this case its not a cultivated subspecies. The bean is huge, somewhat rounded, and lacks density. When roasted it tends to separate and form something roasters call Elephant Ears, a single hollow shaped bean. These are a normal occurrence in Central African coffees, even a fine Kenya will have a few green Elephant Ears in them, and the normal Zimbabwe Peaberry we stocked had a few Mother Beans too. But this stuff was ridiculous. I called the broker, he said “send in a sample, we’ll discount or replace it,” and I pulled the coffee from the list. Funny thing: I roasted some up, and it really was quite a nice cup. So if you see a special on Mother Beans from Zimbabwe, don’t worry about my sanity …and you might want to try your hand at roasting these weird things.

Coffee Harvesting & Export Seasons

I thought this chart might be apropos of the rest of the newsletter contents. This is grossly oversimplified, but does underscore the fact that new crop coffees arrive much later than picking times.

Country Type Main Crop Harvest Main Crop Export

Brazil arabica April-September Year-Round

Colombia arabica Year-Round (peak: October-March)

Congo (Zaire) arabica November-January May-September

Costa Rica arabica September-February November-June

El Salvador arabica November-March December-June

Ethiopia arabica October-December December-March

Guatemala arabica October-March October-June

Hawaii arabica October-February November-May

Honduras arabica October-March November-June

India arabica October-February December-March

Java arabica May-July July-November

Kenya arabica October-March November-April

Mexico arabica October-March December-June

New Guinea arabica March-April May-August

Nicaragua arabica November-February December-June

Panama arabica October-December November-May

Peru arabica April-September June-October

Sulawesi arabica September-January October-February

Sumatra arabica September-April October-June

Tanzania arabica October-February November-April

Timor arabica June-October August-December

Uganda arabica September-February October-March

Venezuela arabica November-January December-June

Vietnam robusta

Yemen arabica October-December December-April Zimbabwe arabica December-Apri

As always, this list is superceded by the web page list, since that is updated continuously! Here’s our Green Coffee Offerings on 3/15/99

***Central American*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Costa Rican Tarrazu Popagayo $4.80 $9.12 $20.88

Guat. Antigua -La Tacita Estate $5.80 $11.02 $25.23

Guat. Organic-Atitlan $5.40 $10.26 $23.49

Guat. SHB Huehuetenango $4.50 $8.55 $19.58

Mexican Organic Atoyac $5.65 $10.74 $24.58

Mexican HG Chiapas $4.25 $8.08 $18.49

Mexican Coatepec -Roma $3.90 $7.41 $16.97

Mexican Maragogype $5.40 $10.26 $23.49

Mex. San Pablo Tres Flechas $4.65 $8.84 $20.23

Mexican HG Organic Putla $4.80 $9.12 $20.88

Nic. Jinotega/Matagalpa $4.65 $8.84 $20.23

Nic. Matagalpa Gavilan Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88

Panama Boquete Lerida Estate $5.10 $9.69 $22.19

Panama Hartmann “Songbird” $5.10 $9.69 $22.19

***South American*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Brazil Bourbon Santos 2/3s $3.50 $6.65 $15.23

BrazilCerrado Monte Carmelo $4.30 $8.17 $18.71

Brazil Minas17/18″Organic” $4.50 $8.55 $19.58

Colombian Huila Supremo $4.30 $8.17 $18.71

Colombian Popayan Supremo $4.60 $8.74 $20.01

Peru Org. Chanchamayo Florida $4.75 $9.03 $20.66

***African*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Ethiopian Ghimbi Gr 5 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66

Ethiopian Harar Gr 4 $5.70 $10.83 $24.80

EthiopianHarar MocharaGr5 $5.80 $11.02 $25.23

Ethiopian Limmu WashedGr2 $6.10 $11.59 $26.54

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Gr2 $6.45 $12.26 $28.06

Kenya AA -Mweiga Farm ’98 $7.50 $14.25 $32.63

Kenya AA -Kiungu Farm ’98 $7.80 $14.82 $33.93

Ugandan Bugisu AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75

Zambia AA Chisoba Estate $6.60 $12.54 $28.71

Zimbabwe AA Canterbury $6.00 $11.40 $26.10

Zimbabwe Peaberry + $6.00 $11.40 $26.10

***Indonesian*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Sulawesi Toraja $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

Sumatra Batak Mandheling $5.35 $10.17 $23.27

Sumatra Mandheling Gr1 DP $5.15 $9.79 $22.40

Sumatra Aged Mandheling DP $6.40 $12.16 $27.84

Sumatra OrganicGayoMtn.Gr2 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

Timor Organic MaubesseGr1 $5.35 $10.17 $23.27

***Other*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Indian Monsooned Malabar $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

Indian Mysore-Kents Varietal $5.40 $10.26 $23.49

French Chicory -Roasted $6.00 $11.40 $26.10

Maui Kaanapali Moka $7.40 $14.06 $32.19

Papua New Guinea Gumanch A $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

Papua New Guinea Wahgi PB $5.70 $10.83 $24.80

SM’s Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75

Sweet Maria’s Fr.RoastBlend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

***Decafs*** 1 lb green 2 lb green 5 lb green

Colombian Excelso CO2 Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93

MexicanEsmeralda Natural Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75

PapuaNewGuinea Org.SWP Decaf $6.40 $12.16 $27.84

Timor Organic SWP Decaf $6.40 $12.16 $27.84

Sweet Maria’s Coffee Roastery

9 E. 2nd Ave. * Columbus Ohio 43201

ph/fx:614 294 1816 * orders:888.876 5917


email: [email protected]