Sweet Maria’s Staff Picks – Aug. 2021: Featuring Dan

Hi, I’m Dan, and this is round 2 for me doing the “Staff Picks”. If you’re interested in how I found my way into coffee, you can check out my first Staff Picks HERE

It seems like we always have interesting coffees arriving. But for me, Summer is a particularly special time of year for incoming origins. We see a massive influx of fresh coffees from East Africa (specifically Kenya and Ethiopia) and Central America land during the Summer months – coffees that will help carry us through much of the remainder of the year. Not only do the coffees from these regions make up the lion’s share of our annual stock, but the wide range of origins and flavors are a good illustration of just how far-reaching and unique different coffees can be!

Fun non-coffee fact: My family just adopted a little bunny that we’ve named “Bun”. He was found on the street nearby, clearly a domestic breed (Holland Lop), one-eyed, lost, and sopping wet. After a vet visit, and a round of meds, Bun’s settled in well at his new home. Bun likes lots of pets, cardboard toilet paper rolls, tunnels, and copious amounts of hay! Bun doesn’t like being picked up, forced to take oral meds, or an empty food bowl. I had no idea rabbits make good companion pets, nor did I expect to give this one 100 square feet of our living room!

And now my coffee recommendations:

Mexico FTO Comunidad Tierra Blanca – This has to be one of our best Mexico lots this year. I’m digging the cup flavors right around City+ roast level, about 20-25 degrees F beyond the onset of 1st Crack. Between the high levels of sweetness and body, “syrupy” is the adjective that I keep coming back to. Yes, there’s a lot more than that going on in the cup, but it’s the core bittersweetness that I think lends wide appeal. Definitely a “crowd pleaser”, and sweet, sweet, sweet! 

Guatemala Antigua Finca Cabrejo – High scores aren’t only reserved for flashy, floral cups. Cabrejo breaks 88 points because of its clean sweetness, pristine cup flavors, and sparkling acidity in near perfect balance. This is a coffee you can roast light or dark, and expect sweetness to show through at the outer ends of that spectrum. While I do realize every growing region produces a wide range of quality, descriptors like “elegant” and “clean” come to mind when I think of our Antigua coffees, which Cabrejo so perfectly encapsulates.

Kenya Muranga Kangunu AB – Light and bright, that’s how I like my Kenyas. Yes, darker roasting helps develop some of the dark fruit characteristics, but it’s the soaring citric highs that I’m after. Muranga also offers robust sweetness, even in a City roast, which helps to offset the bracing acidic impression. It also has this really nice dried fruit accent underneath that I think tastes a lot like chewy dried tamarind (which is also tart, and adds to the complex acidity). Brewed in isolation, some of the nuance can get lost. But put Kangunu on the table next to any of the Centrals above and I think you’ll see what I mean!

Kenya Muranga Riakiberu Peaberry – “But Kenya’s are too bright!” you declare. To that I say, not all! Take Riakiberu, for example. Yes, acidity rates 8.9 on our Cupping Graph (tame for Kenya), but that’s when roasted to City. Even a shade darker, at City+, rounds off that brightness quite a bit. I’d bet that those who are ‘acidity averse’ would even get behind a Full City roast. The middle roast levels are where you’ll find dark fruit flavors, juicier body, and yes, acidity that’s well-integrated into the cup, rather than way out front. And Riakiberu PB is just so, SO sweet from beginning to end. 

We turned Dan’s list into a Green Coffee Sample Set.

2 Responses

  1. I really enjoy reading, appreciate the advice, in these columns, as well as the cupping notes section for each listing. I plan on trying to roast some Finca Cabrejo tonight, since I had bought a pound in my last order. These all sound great, and I think I’ll have to try to work these into my upcoming orders. As I am pretty newish to home roasting, I am very much in the “try everything” phase. It is pretty fun though, and luckily, I have been able to enjoy most of what I have tried.

    What a lucky rabbit. It is so nice that he now has a home where he will be appreciated and cared for! We got a kitten last fall, and I was really surprised at the positive effect he’s had on my mental health with everything going on. I hope the rabbit has a similarly positive effect on your family as well!

    1. I’m not so newish to roasting and still like to try everything! Part of what drew me to Sweet Maria’s as a customer oh so long ago, was the wide representation of coffee origins. I’m glad to hear you enjoy that aspect of our offer list and these sample sets too 🙂

      And 100% YES to your last comment.


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