Symposium, Imposium, Opposium

I have always had mixed feelings about the SCAA Symposium. And in my inimitable style, I have had them in absence of any actual experience: I never went to Symposium. It is the 2 day event before the SCAA Exposition that is billed as a meeting of Industry Leaders, and features a stacked bill of various personalities, consultants, a couple scientists, market researchers, financial experts, and interpretive dance.

Funny or Not, Here I Come...

So I made a send-up coffee travel video that was supposed to parody the potential silliness of a coffee travel video, and the responses to it range a wide gamut. I am sure many people get a small chuckle from something in it and move on. A few think it is hilarious, others don't realize it's an attempt at humor, and a handful are a bit offended. Because some comments were a little "out there", a couple downright mean, I actually turned on "moderate comments" for the first time ever, and I culled a few.

Theft: Side Effect of High Coffee Prices

I had sent this tweet last night: "Stolen: Container of coffee. Where: Guatemala. Contents: Sweet Maria's and Stumptown coffees. Description: Big metal box. Call me if found." It was not a joke... We lost 98 bags of coffee (Pulcal - Hacienda Carmona) that was en route from Antigua to the port, just over an hour away. I don't know the details yet, if the truck was stopped by thieves, or if anyone was hurt. It might have been the driver was paid off, and simply drove away with it. It is no wonder.

Central America Coffees and the New Crop

I was just asked about our current selection of Central America being slim. We are actually adding a Guatemala  and a Mexico coffee late this week, but it is too early for many new crop Centrals still. We had a fantastic delivery of Costa Rica coffees, but we are still a month away from the bulk of the microlot arrivals. A few general comments on SM and our coffees. We sell through many of our lots rapidly and it's really important to us that the green coffee is new crop. All our Centrals now are new crop. Arrival dates are posted on every review!

A French Press Moment

Uganda - Mathias, President of the coffee coop, and Soloman, the crazy driver. Who would have imagined five years ago that a coffee wonk who announced proudly "I make coffee in a French

Drinking vs. Tasting

I come back to this thought very often, the difference between tasting or cupping coffee and drinking it.  I spend most of my time cupping, really thinking about what I am tasting, holding the coffee in my mouth and thinking about what makes it unique.  Sometimes, rarely, I just drink it. That is probably the opposite of what most folks do!  I thought I would post a link to this You Tube video again - Drinking Coffee vs.

Small Quality-Obsessed Coffee Roasters On the Rise!

[caption id="attachment_765" align="alignnone" width="388" caption="Totally Unrelated to Anything. Captain Scarlet.What coffee would the Mysterons drink?"]Totally Unrelated to Anything. Captain Scarlet. [/caption] Yawn. Double Yawn.

Gesha - is it all that?

I cupped the auction samples for the Tuesday auction of Panama Esmeralda Especial, their Gesha (or Geisha as everyone else writes it) lot selections. I guess being the most celebrated coffee of a celebrated cultivar has its downside, and it's easy to take shots at Esmeralda Gesha when it isn't anything but a 95+ point coffee. But the lots this year showed the full range of qualities, which oddly ended up ranked in order from lot 1 to 7 as they are in the auction. 1-4 lots are solid coffees, 5-7 are second tier... well, 7 is maybe even third tier Gesha with muddled character.

$caa in hotlanta

We're off to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (scaa) conference in scintillating "Hotlanta" today. In a way, I wonder why I go. I count among the disaffected, I suppose. At one time "Specialty Coffee" really meant something, defining itself in opposition to commercial/industrial grade coffee. Now there are so many things crammed under the roof of Specialty, it's hard not to feel squeezed out. I don't know what we are ... Fourth Wave, Micro-Lot Specialists, DIY ... it always seems silly to think of such terms and even sillier to apply them. Maybe it's my history.

Warshing Dishes n' Spitting Coffee

If a "blog" is supposed to reflect real everyday life, then between every post about coffee there would have to be a post about washing dishes. A good part of cupping is washing dishes. I spend a LOT of time washing dishes, and spittoons, and dumping the grind thing over the spittoon, which gets really gross. Since I think, next the average coffee roaster shop, we cup a lot, we generate a lot of dishes, a lot of spent grounds, a lot of full spittoons. Gross, yes, but that's the way it goes.

cupping room video

not the best quality, but it took a few minutes to make, and not much more to edit. I should really use my video camera instead of a point-n-shoot. next time.

scaa show '08 (sigh)

Tom, Josh and Derek are back from the SCAA show. This whole "cupper vs. barista" thing was really on everyone's minds. Also, our Rwanda roast did quite well in the Roaster's Choice competition despite some very, very beautiful coffees we were up against. We were just hoping to make the top 10! Oddly, I had misread it as "Taster's Choice competition", and was at Costco looking for 30 Lbs of Taster's Choice to enter ... which wouldn't have done quite as well as the Rwanda.

What the .... Starbucks buys Clover?!

As someone who is on the fence about the Clover (love the idea, like the people, have some reservations about the cup) ... I am shocked. A lot of respectable people have been cheerleaders for the Clover , and I imagine they feel really burned. But think of all those small places that coughed up $11k per machine (or a bit more). What's it worth to them now if Starbucks will have one just across the street. Clover was part of a quality initiative to elevate the level of brewed coffee, to give the independent a better chance against the chains.

Will we all be embarrassed?

Do you put on one leather glove in order to make an espresso? I don't. Do you polish the puck clockwise or counter-clockwise? Hmmm. Do you drink coffee with a silver-plated "cupping spoon?" I don't either. Do you "break the coffee crust" by stirring 3 times to the bottom, or do you go 4 times just on the surface? Does brewed coffee extract or infuse? For how long? Do you argue with your other about whether your morning bowl of fruit loops has a hint of red apple, or green apple? If it's red, are we talking Fuji, Braeburn, Red Delicious ... and do the flavors "knit" well together.?

coffee conference melancholia

it is time once again for the scaa convention, this time down in happening long beach,ca . yes, the long beach near the oil fields, near the port, near l.a.; the long beach everyone talks about. (maybe i can sneak over to San Pedro for some excitement). i must confess a certain dread. it's a massive swarm of people from all over the globe, and Iowa too. And 94% of them have absolutely no relevance to what we do here at sweet maria's on a daily basis. well, the coffee business has never been much about coffee, sadly.

Where's the Centrals?

Well, up until now they are out of season, and the early samples I have cupped are unworthy of offering; lower grown and rushed through processing at the dry mill. Remember, coffee is a crop. Sure, greens store well, but still it is important to buy during the peak of the harvest. It would be irresponsible of me (and run totally counter to everything we do here) to buy lots I knew were inferior, simply to plump up our inventory. Coffee is not soap-on-a-rope. Buying and offering coffee is not like stocking canned goods down at the A&P! (Although I wish it was sometimes ...

omg, it's 07

my problem is that changing a 6 to a 7 is not easy. now next year, changing a 7 to 8, that will be a breeze. how can people just blow a firework and declare it a new year? it takes me 4 months, or more. lots of scratched out dates on my checks. anyway, we are revving up top reopen, inventory, deep cleaning, all that. everyone comes back tomorrow and then we try to overcome the accumulated orders since Dec 26. it was so nice to spend a week just being a home roaster, going out on the porch with the hearthware and 4 oz of green. brewing in my technivorm, or aeropress if it was just for me.

motozintla means "land of the squirrels"

i just returned from a short trip to Chiapas, which is as far south in Mexico as you go without ending up in Guatemala. we landed in Tapachula, then headed up to the coffee town of Motozintla. i learned a few things, the least of which is this: i dislike traveling in a group. anyway, i wrote another fairly acerbic commentary, with a lot of pictures and a few nice ones here and there. -tom

is it coffee?

robusta coffee marked xxx There are laws concerning the maximum number of defects per 300 gram sample of coffee is allowable to import into the U.S. I guarantee you this exceeds the maximum, but it happens anyway. Who is out there sampling and checking all the incoming lots? nobody.
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