May – Jun 2008: New Crop: Central America & More; Flat Rate Shipping; Postcards From Coffee Lands; New Espresso Training Book

New Crop: Central America & More
Drowning in samples. It might sound like a good problem to have, but you should see my desk; it’s covered with coffee samples. Upstairs in the cupping room … samples, everywhere. There are baggies and boxes, of every shape and size. Then there are the piles, flopped over. Occasionally there are the escapees, loose green coffee now hopelessly separated from its designated bag: anonymous, alone, doomed to become floor sweepings, never to be roasted, tasted, or appreciated. There are some key moments each year when coffee harvests from various origin countries yield hordes of pre-shipment samples (enticing, carefully prepared little baggies chosen to represent the bigger lot) awaiting a buyer. Since many of our coffees are purchased from farms we have visited and sources we know, the narrative isn’t quite the same. We already know the coffee, we know the quality of the labor behind the coffee, and we know the cup quality we should get. Still, pre-shipment samples are an important part of the process, even if they are not solicitations to buy the lot. This year is a new beginning for Sweet Maria’s in terms of our Central American coffees. With more time traveling in the field, we have jumped in with a greater variety of micro-lot coffees than ever before. Many of these, especially in the case of Costa Rica, come from small farms that used to sell to big cooperatives, and decided to go independent, build Micro-Mills on the premises, and get total control of their coffee. This also allows them to gain better prices from quality-oriented buyers like Sweet Maria’s, and maximize the value of their product. The number of small lots we will be offering is a bit daunting, and involves a lot of writing and reviewing for me (Tom.)

We need to introduce a broader range of flavors than before and it may be confusing since there are Costa Rican coffees that are full natural, dry-process, and cup like dry-processed Ethiopia; others are “Miel” coffees, pulp natural, and have lower acidity but with great balance and body like a Brazil. And then we have the typical wet-process lots, but since they are from particular farms, particular cultivars, and particular elevations, they cup with a vivid brightness that may exceed some of our Costas of the past. We will be offering the same from Guatemala, with a full natural lot from Oriente due in several months, but some excellent small farm wet-processed coffees due much sooner. We already have 2 new crop lots from Fraijanes in the shop, old cultivars of Bourbon and Typica. In Ethiopia, we are taking a much more active role buying from cooperatives and private mills, and will have many of our wetprocessed coffees vacuum packed in Addis Ababa to ensure they are not diminished by the long (often sweltering) trip from Africa to Oakland. Kenya Auction Lots? They take 6 weeks to transit here, but we have many incredible lots lined up. Back to our Centrals; we just received our Nicaragua Limoncillo Farm Java Cultivar, and a sister lot of this coffee (under a modified name) just won #2 in the 2008 Nicaragua Cup of Excellence! We have the
award winning El Salvador from Finca Kilimanjaro booked, along with Orange Bourbon, the excellent Finca Mauritania, and many other exciting lots. In April, the arrivals will be descending upon us in thick slabs, like fog through the Golden Gate.

Flat Rate Shipping
The USPS has come out with a new Large Flat Rate box, so now there is the standard Flat Rate box (holds up to 12#s maximum, green coffee and some bags) for $10.80 and the Large Flat Rate box(18#s maximum, green coffee and some bags) for $13.95. This works out to about $.90/# shipping in the small box, and $.76/# in the larger one. This is a great deal for folks east of the Rockies (okay, so like most of the country!) so long as you understand that USPS boxes are not truly trackable; delivery confirmation is just that, the box is recorded when it goes into the system and when it is delivered, that’s all. Also, there is no time-in-transit guarantee as there is with UPS, no real accountability unless the box is insured. I mean, c’mon, it’s the Post Office! So it works great most of the time, but when something is lost, misdirected or horribly delayed, there is no real accountability. West of the Rockies, UPS is often a better deal than USPS Flat Rate. And of course, for larger boxes and items that will not fit in the Flat Rate Boxes, UPS is the best option generally.

Postcards from Coffee Lands
We have started to print postcards of various photos Tom has taken on his many travels – so far this year we have cards from India, Costa Rica and Yemen. Many folks like these as they are good quality prints, so we will try to keep them coming, timed to coincide with new coffee arrivals and/or big trips. We know you could re-use them easier if we didn’t fill the back with information about the image, but then again, you wouldn’t know what the heck you were looking at in the picture! We plan to produce a card with good-quality reproductions of the various roasting stages, a “cheat card” you can keep nearby while roasting. Look for these packed with your orders soon!

New Espresso Training Book
We have a new book oriented toward advanced “home baristas” and professionals as well. It’s by Scott Rao and it’s called The Professional Barista’s Handbook. Don’t let the name put you off, it’s an excellent, focused book on technique, printed on thick stock, perfect to keep right by the machine. Unlike the Illy Espresso book, which is heavy on theory, this book is about practice, about doing it. -Maria

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA
email: [email protected]

Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List
as of May1, 2008 – there are many, many incoming lots weekly.
Check the web site – this list is certainly out-of-date!

Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
El Salvador Matalapa Estate $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
Guatemala Finca La Florencia 100% Bourbon $5.15 $9.79 $22.40 $42.75 $79.31
Guatemala Huehuetenango – San Vicente $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
Honduras FTO San Marcos -Cocosam Coop $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
Mexico Organic Dry-Process Nayarit Rustico $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $48.14 $89.32
Nicaragua Pacamara Peaberry $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
Nicaragua Limoncillo Java Cultivar $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
Panama SHB Las Victorias $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Brazil Carmo – Nazareth Dias Pereira