Sept – Oct – Nov. 2004: Brewing Fundamentals; Ivan the Terrible

Central American Round Up, Yee-haw!
At this point we have the largest selection of Cup of Excellence (CoE) coffees in stock. The only coffee set to arrive is the Honduras CoE Lot and it is stuck in a warehouse in Miami, delayed because of the successive hurricanes! In fact, there are only a couple lots of Central American coffees still due to arrive from the later part of the harvest season. Roughly speaking, October through next March is a window of time that I will not buy Central American coffees, because they are either the dregs of the current crop that are last to sell, or the new crop shipments that are from lower elevations (or rushed through
processing). So the final months of 2004 are a good time to look over our fresh, mid-crop offerings of Central American coffees and stock up to last through next March! Here’s a quick overview:

Costa Rica: This past year I found that Hacienda La Minita had the best offerings, with very disappointing samples coming from other sources (the Costa Rica auction, Llano Bonito, Fruta de Oro, etc.). I am not specifically referring to the coffee from La Minita farm, but rather the La Magnolia Tres Rios and the Dota Conquistador that are imported by the La Minita organization. I think the limited (read sold-out) SM Peaberry was fantastic. No new CR offerings en route until new crop. Guatemala: It’s been a good year overall, with the Huixoc being a great cup, but not the same as 3 years ago. The San Vicente is an SM Exclusive and is a really nice, dense seed Bourbon cultivar coffee. I passed on some of our previous offerings (Filadelfia, El Injerto, Santa Barbara, etc) finding many to be too flat and dull. Huixoc remains a great coffee and the Coban El Tirol is fantastic. There are 2 incoming lots still: Guatemala Barillas (bright, floral, awesome) and Guatemala Atitlan Santo Tomas Pachuj (fruity, buttery).

El Salvador: The day after I posted our 3 amazing El Salvador CoE lots, I saw an announcement of Starbucks new pricey “Black Apron” offering; El Salvador Pacamara. Clearly, “Big Green” is also impressed with this cultivar. I went out on a limb for Salvador coffees this year, because they are so much better than many roasters give them credit for. Three lots of CoE was a big investment for tiny Sweet Maria’s, and if I lose my shirt, fine. It’s a just cause.

Nicaragua: I was on the CoE jury and the quality overall was very high. We bought 2 lots and along with the Marogogype and the Organic Fair Trade Segovia in stock, this is quite a grand and varied Nicaragua selection. No new incoming shipments.

Panama: Like El Salvador, I consider Panama a underrated Central, and this years offerings have been excellent. The Jaramillo and Leru Auction Lots are gone, but the unique Hartmann Estate Songbird is excellent this year. We have one incoming shipment, a mid-crop lot of Finca La Berlina … an excellent 100% Typica cultivar coffee. Mexico: The coffee crisis has set in here, and the toll it has taken on overall cup quality is plainly visible. It just doesn’t pay to farm quality coffee in Mexico. For our part, we have paid sustainable, fair prices for our selection of Mexican coffees from Oaxaca and Chiapas, and have no other incoming shipments until new crop in March.

Honduras: The Organic Marcala lot we have is quite good and somehow people just don’t add it to their shopping lists. It’s a shame. And the Honduras CoE lot from La Fortuna farm will probably be on the web site by the time you read this! Now, these are just a few brief comments and if you really wantto learn something about the Centrals, you are going to have to power on the CPU and read our site a bit. -Tom

Ivan the Terrible
A day before the massive Hurricane Ivan was set to hit Jamaica I received an urgent call. It was quite possible that Ivan, on the verge of being a Category 5 monster, was going to wipe out the Blue Mountain farms of the island. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert, a mere Category 3, destroyed the coffee harvest for that year and 3 more! The coffee plant is fragile. A tree has a woody, strong trunk, but most of the other growth is herbaceous and fragile. A strong windstorm can ruin the coffee harvest in several ways. If the trees happen to be flowering at the time, the delicate blossoms will be blown away and no coffee cherry will develop. If the coffee cherry is green, the clusters are firmly attached to the branch, but the overall weight in a strong storm can stress the branch and tear it. And if the cherry is ripe it is easily knocked to the ground and ruined. Now, in this we are discussing regular storms with winds in the 25-35 mph range. In a hurricane, the trees can easily be stripped to the trunk. But coffee is vulnerable in other ways. Good coffee grows at altitude and is often situated precariously on steep slopes. In fact, many of the farms I have been to have coffee plantings on 45+ degree terrain! (It boggles the mind to think how the trees are cared for and harvested). The greatest damage on these steep slopes is from mudslides that take out whole swathes of land, damage the farm buildings below, and destroy the internal roads and paths. This was the case in Nicaragua and Honduras with Hurricane Mitch. And it was also the primary destructive force with Gilbert! The panicked phone call I mentioned was concerning the last shipment of Jamaica from this crop to leave the island. The ship left port in Kingston just one day before Ivan’s wrath was felt. We secured an option to buy coffee from this shipment, thinking it might be the last for a long, long time. As it turns out, Ivan was indeed terrible, but it could have been worse. The Hurricane eye skirted the southwestern part of the island, sparing the Blue Mountain (eastern) region somewhat. As for the Mavis Bank mark we buy from, the mill was spared. The deluge of rain did create numerous mudslides but no direct hits on the farm infrastructure. The loss to this crop was serious, at least 50% of the new crop is gone. I am not sure what this means for availability or pricing, but the most important thing was that death and injury on the island was much, much less than it could have been. At this writing (Sept. 15), we hope the Mobile, Alabama will be spared as well!

The Holidays Are Coming (Egad)!
I don’t think I was such a Grinch until we started in retail. Most folks who work in retail agree that the holidays bring such an increase (not only in business but stress and anxiety) that it has makes a person wonder what it’s all about. The past two years we have worked everyday in the home stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas – and have been able to keep up pretty well. On behalf of Derek and myself (who answer all the emails and phone calls) I’d like to ask that folks take a deep breath, and know that whatever is wrong, we will try our best to fix it. UPS also has a huge increase in volume at this time of year, so more damage always occurs. We might need a day or two to get back to you, but we will get back to everyone as soon as possible. With any luck, everyone will have a safe and happy Holiday season.

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1455 64th Street, Emeryville CA 94608
email: [email protected]
Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List on Sept 15, 2004.
Check our web page for the most up-to-date offering list!
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 Tres Rios -La Magnolia $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Costa Rica La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
El Salvador CoE Lot #12 San Jose $6.20 $11.78 $27.59 $99.20
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 Antigua -Los Pastores $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Guatemala Organic Coban – El Tirol $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemala Huehuetenango -Huixoc 6468 $4.55 $8.65 $19.79 $70.07
Guatemala HHT -Finca San Vicente $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Honduras CoE Auction Lot -La Fortuna $7.80 $14.82 $34.71 $124.80
Honduras Organic Marcala SHG $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Mexico SHG EP Chiapas Jaltenango $4.10 $7.79 $17.84 $63.14
Mexico Oaxaca “Pluma Hidalgo” $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Mexico Org/FT Oaxaca Pluma $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Nicaragua Cup of Excellence -El Regreso $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Nicaragua Cup of Exc. -Coop 15 de Sept. $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Nicaragua Matagalapa Maragogype $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Nicaragua Organic/FT Segovia $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Panama -Hartmann Estate “Songbird” $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Panama Boquete -Lerida Estate $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Bolivia Organic Cenaproc Co-op $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Bolivia Fair Trade “de Montana” $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Brazil Cerrado -Patrocinio Natural $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Brazil Cup of Excellence Laranja-Cravo $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Brazil Fazenda Ipanema “Dulce” $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Brazil Organic/FT Poco Fundo $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Colombian Huila “Mercedes Supremo” $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Colombian Narino del Abuelo $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Organic Mesa de los Santos $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Colombian Popayan Supremo “Caucano” $4.65 $8.84 $20.23 $71.61
Peru Organic/Fair Trade Ccochapampa $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Harar -Lot 7039 “Horse” $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Ethiopian Organic/Fair Trade Harar $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian Organic Sidamo $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe -Lot 7449 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Kenya AA Auction Lot 234 -Kagumoini $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Kenya AA Auction Lot -Karatina $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AA Auction Lot 211 -Kiamabara $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Uganda Organic Bugisu – Sipi Falls $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
African- Arabian continued 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb Yemen
Mokha Mattari $7.10 $13.49 $33.02 $113.60
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 19+ in transit
Indian Pearl Mountain Peaberry in transit
Papua New Guinea – Kimel $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Sulawesi Toraja Grade One $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Aged Sumatra Lintong $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Sumatra Mandheling ’04 – Lot 6854 $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
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 $8.10 $15.55 $37.67 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona -Honaunau Peaberry $15.40 $29.57 $71.61 5 lb limit
Puerto Rico Yauco Selecto AA $9.70 $18.62 $45.11 $161.02
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 Prima Qualita WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Colombian Excelso Medellin WP Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Colombian Huila Natural Decaf $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Costa Rican El Sol WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian WP Decaf (Yirgacheffe) $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 Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Mexican Organic/Fair Trade WP Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Nicaragua Jalapa SHG WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Panama WP Decaf -Panamaria Estate $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Sumatra WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Organic Washed Robusta $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Uganda Robusta -Esco Farms 18+ $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 $61.60

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