Tiny Joy

Jun - Jul - Aug 2005: Kenya, Kenya, Kenya
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Kenya, Kenya, Kenya
To adapt a Homer Simpson line, I am an admitted “Kenyaholic.” … I simply can’t get enough Kenyahol “What is Kenyahol” you ask? It’s the secret ingredient that makes Kenya coffees so damn fine. In terms of intensity, brightness, and aftertaste a Kenya’s only rival in wet-processed coffees are the Yirgacheffe and Sidamo washed lots. Yet the range of Kenya coffees, from mild and balanced to overthe- top, mouth-puckering acidic lots is vast. Kenyas come in all shapes and sizes, and fortunately it is offered in a way that allows quality-minded roasters to buy exactly the lot they want: the Kenya Coffee Board Auction System. More on that later. The 5 cent history: Coffee was planted in 1893 when the Congregation of the Holy Spirit brought Bourbon varietal plants from Ethiopia, which was given the local nickname “French Mission” cultivar. The majority of coffee grown now is SL-28 and SL-34. (I list the types in our coffee reviews of specific lots). These two strains originated with the original French Mission seedstock re-worked in the 1950s by Guy Gibson and Scott Laboratories. There are 40 “SL” strains developed over time that have good cup character and beneficial disease resistance. The recent Riuri 11 cultivar is a dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant strain. It was of grave concern to cup-quality purists (in brief, it sucks) but totals just 3% of all Kenya coffee; it is not much of a threat, really. All Kenya lots from estates and small cooperatives (called “societies”) are sold each Tuesday in the auction. In a remarkable feat, samples are distributed globally, cupped by any interested party, and bid upon based on cup character. Price is determined by the level of competition for any specific lot, and a small roaster can get their precious 20 bags despite the best efforts of a huge company with a more limited price point. It also means that there is no pressure put on the producers to cut deals at lower prices in order to sell more coffee, at lower prices … hence the incentive for quality over quantity is intact. And allegiance is given to the cup more than the particular estate or mill or exporter; cup quality reigns supreme! There are problems with the system, especially in recent years as Kenya is no longer held as the democratic jewel of East Africa, and as the country’s infrastructure shows some serious cracks. It is however an unparalleled model of quality-driven coffee distribution. As with any origin, a coffee’s greatness is uncovered in the cup (why you can’t simply buy coffee by region, or even by farm name). Kenya allows the dodgy lots to flounder as they should, and the pearls to be discovered by whomever is willing to pay more. And the farm or co-op benefits directly from the higher price they so rightly deserve … although the system costs a lot to run, and a hefty cut comes out for logistics. In recent years, the cut has grown larger, sadly. Such a jewel of a coffee, such a wonderful country … will corruption lay a proverbial “turd in the punchbowl”? We devote a lot of effort to cupping Kenya coffees, starting with the early lots in January (remember, a January sample would take about 2 months to arrive). Early lots tend to be from the Meru, then Embu district, then Murang’a, and Kirinyaga, later Nyeris. These 5 are the primary areas we buy from. There are 3 other growing regions; Kiambu, Machako, and Nakuru (Solai). We have bought Kiambu, but never from the latter two areas. This year is stellar! We have already offered 3 lots (Ithima, Mbaranga, Mbwinjeru) and have a whopping 5 more coming! Don’t dare ask me to pick a favorite. These are coffees I chose in blind cupping out of hundreds of samples in many successive weeks of cupping through the auction season. Each one is a coffee that leapt out at me, that was far superior to the surrounding lots. If they don’t arrive in Oakland equally as impressive as the sample we can reject them using our right-ofrefusal. (This happened just once this year so far). Kenyas are different, and not all fit a stereotype of acidic, citric, “twist of your tongue” brightness. There are darkly fruited Kenyas, lush, deep coffees, weighty. There are wildly aromatic, “fruit punch” cups, and more focused character-driven profiles. Yes, there is citrus, sometimes a lot of it. Roast tastes vary from translucent and sweet to hefty, complex bittersweets. Can you compare the merits of such diverse and beautiful coffees by one standard? It would be cruel. My advice is to sample a selection of these coffees, find the one that fires up your papilla (uh, taste buds), and keep your mind open to the possibilities of what a Kenya coffee can do. Kenya in espresso? For me, the thought was heresy a couple years ago. But, used in moderation, the aromatics can be outrageous, the winey, berry and black currant fruits: intoxicating! Kenyahol … it is addictive. -Tom

Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List
on July 10, 2005 – check the web page for the latest list
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu -Conquistador $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Costa Rica Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Costa Rica La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Costa Rica "SM Select" Peaberry $5.85 $11.12 $25.45 $90.09
El Salvador Monte Leon "Miel" $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemala Antigua Peaberry "Especial" $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Guatemala Organic Coban -El Tirol $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemala Huehuetenango -El Injerto $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Mexico Chiapas -Udepom Co-op $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Mexico Organic Oaxaca -Finca El Olivo $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Mexico Oaxaca Pluma -Tres Oros $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Nicaragua -Mama Mina Estate $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Nicaragua Matagalpa Maragogype $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Bolivia Organic - Cenaproc "Peaberry" $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Brazil Carmo Estate Pulp-Natural $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Brazil Cerrado -Lot 141 Wagner Ferrero $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Brazil Fazenda Ipanema "Dulce" $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 $66.22
Brazil Fazenda Santa Helena $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Brazil Sul de Minas Yellow Bourbon $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Colombia Cup of Exc.- Pradera Esperanza $8.90 $16.91 $38.72 $137.06
Colombia Huila - Oparapa Micro-region $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Colombia Huila - Palestina Micro-region $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Harar Horse -Lot 532 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Ethiopian Org/FT DP Sidamo $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Ethiopian Wet-Processed Sidamo $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (MAO) $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Kenya AA Auction Lot 707 -Ithima $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Kenya AA Auction Lot 661 -Mbaranga $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Kenya AA Auction Lot - Mbwinjeru $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Kenya Gicherori arr 7/15/05 - Kenya Gethumbwini arr. 7/18/05
Rwanda Gatare Grade A $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Tanzania AAA Songea $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.50 $14.25 $34.88 $120.00
Yemen Mokha Sana'ani $6.40 $12.16 $29.76 $102.40
Zimbabwe AAA+ Dandoni Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
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 Monsooned Malabar "Elephant" $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Java Government Estate - Blawan $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Papua New Guinea -Kimel Plantation $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Sulawesi Toraja Grade One $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Timor Organic Maubesse $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Sumatra Lintong Dry-Process $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Sumatra Gr.1 Mandheling DP $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Australia Mountain Top Estate XF $10.40 $19.97 $48.36 5 lb limit
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
Brazil Mogiana WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Colombian WP Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Costa Rica SHB WP Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Ethiopian WP Decaf (Sidamo) $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Indonesian Organic SWP Komodo Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Mexico Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.85 $9.22 $21.10 $74.69
Mexico Oaxaca Tres Oros WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sumatra Natural Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sumatra WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Robusta -Devaracadoo Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Hills Bros. proprietary continuous coffee roaster circa 1927, San Francisco. It
roasted just a few pounds at a time, but had a capacity of 1,000 Lbs. per hour
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Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA 94607
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: info@sweetmarias.com