Sept – Oct 2007: The Ethiopia DP Blues; Too Much Green; Deja-Vu All Over Again

The Ethiopia DP Blues
Without even considering the musical horror that the title suggests, let’s get to the point: Harar and Sidamo Dry- Process (DP) coffees are in having some “issues”. Everything seems a bit off this year; many lots I have cupped possess strong defects. These musty “damp closet flavored” coffees are due to unseasonable rains that occurred during harvest, when the coffee is laid out to dry on raised screens or patios. If those coffee cherries get wet, drying is delayed or (even worse) the moistened fruit layer of the coffee cherry starts to get moldy. It requires great diligence to cover the coffee when rain is immanent, and quickly get it back out on the screens when the skies clear, so we are finding some nice lots of dry-processed Harar and Sidamo. To be specific, we had a good lot of MAO Horse Harar early in the harvest, and a Fair Trade Organic lot from Oromia later in the season. We have a nice Sidamo from Moredocafe Coop, and (perhaps even better) a lot from Trabocca coming very soon. None of these are as bright as last year’s coffee (which was in turn not as bright and intense as the 2005 lots). None have that wild blueberry character … however we are finding the dried peach, apricot and mango notes. So even in an “off” year, with a lot of cupping work, good coffees can be sourced. As an alternate, we have found an excellent Yemen Sana’ani that will be coming to our offering list early September, and this might bode well for Sana’ani and Mattari lots we have lined up for December arrival too. So consider Yemeni coffees as an Ethiopia dry-process alternative. Also, wet-processed Ethiopia such as Yirgacheffe seem unaffected by the weather problems, and our Kochere lot is truly spectacular this year. We have some exotic new Dry-Process (DP) coffees from other origins too: Costa Rica Dota Dry- Process is brightly fruited but retains the rustic sweetness and chocolate endemic to DP coffees. We have a dried-onthe- tree India coffee coming too; this means the coffee cherry turned to “raisin” stage intact on the tree, and patio or screen drying was unnecessary. This full contact with the tree while drying produces an intense body, fruit and chocolate cup character. Look for Mallali Estate on our list soon. And of course, new crop DP Brasils are due in November, with Moreninha Formosa, Camocim and Poco Fundo always having tons of fruity DP character. (PS: I also have my fingers crossed for special dry-processed Ethiopia Limmu and Golocha micro-lots I have lined up for October arrival. Ethiopia Idido Misty Valley is still theoretically possible, although their seems to be a crop shortfall, and not enough of it to go around.) -Tom

Too Much Green
We hear a lot on the homeroast email list about people overwhelmed with their accumulation of green coffee. The fact is, it’s easy to buy too much, especially if you roast just for your own consumption. It’s easy to upgrade to a 5 lb. bag when you know you like a coffee, but those 5 lb’ers can add up into a serious stash. And here we are at the time of year when new arrivals are coming fast and furious. We are adding 2-4 coffees per week, with small lots, special Gesha coffees, Cup of Excellence auction lots, super Kenyas, rare bird-dropping coffee (i.e. the Jacu lot), all of these coming and going in a matter of a couple weeks. It may seem odd to have your green coffee supplier suggesting that you buy less, but look at it this way: your continued happiness with home roasting is in our self-interest too. Yes, the discounts on larger quantities make it more attractive, as well as the benefit of lower
shipping cost per lb. on larger orders. But getting stuck with a huge amount of a particular green coffee when all these new, exciting arrivals continue to emerge … well, that’s not fun either. Homeroast list people seem to roast a lot for friends and family, which helps with “stash reduction.” Some have roasted coffee for churches and charities, which is a great idea! One suggestion that has come up goes something like this: could I produce a forecast of incoming arrivals so people can getting a better glimpse of what’s on the horizon? And the answer is NO! Why? Well, I have all kinds of small-lot coffees that are forever “in-the-works” and often times they simply do not play out. The more proactive I am with coffee sourcing, the more I go to origin, discuss possible quality projects with farmers or millers, the more “iffy” a bankable, high-quality lot often becomes. It seems counter-intuitive but true. For example, in Mexico I visited a cooperative who was open to the idea of “lot separation” for each grower community, allowing me to cup test the quality rather than mixing them all up. Well, the lots weren’t that great, and the coop needed the separated lots to fill contracts for blended coffee. Even though I was offering to pay far more than Fair Trade prices, they just couldn’t do it, and in fact the resulting cup quality didn’t justify doing it in the first place. In Honduras I tried to work directly with a small farm I had met through the Cup of Excellence. But getting this small lot to port, consolidating it for shipment with other coffees, and actually getting that box on the boat was a logistic nightmare. The coffee was ruined in transit. (Don’t worry, the farmer was paid … but the feasibility of micro-lot Honduran coffee failed in this case). If I continue on this tack, I could write a tome of failed coffee offerings. As is more often the case, I cup-test and reject lots that importers have offered based on pre-ship samples. In the elaborate world of the coffee trade, samples sent before the coffee is transported must reasonably match samples when it arrives in port. Oftentimes they don’t, which means I am quite used to having my hopes dashed against the rocks of ferment, phenol, baggy, musty, swampy, sweaty … just to name a few common defects. We have 2 useful resources on our site; look for Tom’s Cupping Log link at the bottom of green coffee pages for a sense of what I do daily in accepting and rejecting lots, and the Coffee Harvest Timetable for a sense of crop timing. Both are approximate (I log about 2/3 of the coffees I cup, and with the timetable …well, it’s a crop and it varies). But they can help you make good choices and not become overburdened with too much green. -Tom

Deja-Vu All Over Again
Note the computer image in this newsletter? You too could be wearing that all over your city! Would you? Well, I would, so I guess that’s why we made another odd t-shirt. In this case, the image is from an internet “cabana” in David, Panama. It’s a stopover point on your way up to the highlands where the small coffee estates are located. I guess they figure it’s one last chance to check email. I guess a primitive painting of technology strikes me as being
charming. Anyway, these shirts are in glorious lo-tech 2 color and feature a little coffee cup logo on the back, way down at the hip. -Tom

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA 94607
email: [email protected]

Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List
as of Sept 6, 2007 – 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
Costa Rica Coop Dota Dry-Process $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Costa Rica Dota Peaberry Special $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Costa Rica La Horqueta “Top 50 meters” in transit
Costa Rica Tarrazu -La Minita $6.80 $12.92 $29.58 $56.44
Costa Rica Naranjo Caracol Peaberry $4.95 $9.41 $21.53 $41.09 $76.23
Costa Rica – Vino de Arabia $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
El Salvador SHB Pulp Natural -San Emilio $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
Guatemala Antigua Retana Yellow Bourbon $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $57.27
Guatemala- Finca San José Ocaña

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