Tiny Joy

Oct - Nov - Dec 2006: A Coffee Philosophy; The Holiday Season
computer coffee

A Coffee Philosophy
Once upon a time there was a Sweet Maria’s coffee shop (incredible but true), and once upon a time people without a clue would come in and gawk at the green coffee. For them, coffee was a brown powder that made a brown liquid. In fact, some had not seen a whole, intact roasted coffee bean before. You might be thinking we are talking about the 1970s here, but actually it was the ‘90s, and with that sort of clientele, the coffee shop was short-lived. For many of us, the days of coffee powder are far in the past, and as we continue to redefine and refine our sensibilities and expectations of the brown beverage, we may feel like Jetsons among the Flinstone masses. But the fact is, we’re all Fred and Wilma in a way … me too. Chalk it up to the-more I-learn-the-less-I-know syndrome; fact is, I still feel like a coffee caveman, not really able to take what I know and use it to solve all the variabilities and
vagaries of the coffee trade. It should be simple, of course it sounds outright remedial. When we prepare coffee, we are simply cooking a dried seed, bashing it to pieces, dumping it in hot water, and slurping it up. Sounds fairly Neanderthal to me, and in its essence, that’s it. The farm can be equally reduced to minimal terms: a flowering tree makes a fruit that really has little meat on it, so why not slip the seeds out, dry them, and put them in a cloth sack. We’ve invented a million ways to complicate all this; the ones I think about all the time are getting good greens, good bean cooking, and careful brown-juice making. But there is something inexact about the entire process, and maybe it is this frustrating, impossible character lurking behind each bag of greens, each roast and each brew that draws us in. As much as we try to master this process, it defies us. Consider this: I went to Honduras to participate in the ’06 Cup of Excellence. 25 International judges spent days evaluating hundreds of cups, and rated the 30 best lots. We logged in for the auction a month later and bid our little hearts out; I spent 15 K that day for 15 bags … $1000 a bag! I wrote preliminary reviews, with flowing descriptions of the tasting experience. Months later, the delayed shipments arrived, totally ruined. One tasted like rubber, dipped in kerosene, left in the hot sun. The other was worse. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. The coffee, beautifully picked and prepared for the competition, had been ruined at the dry mill when they prepared it for export. It might have been excessive heat, a batch of bad coffee bags, something with the equipment. In one step of a process that is fundamentally simple and crude, but in fact comprised of so many little processes, all quality was sapped out of these coffees, replaced with, well, rubber and kerosene. These kinds of risks are always lurking in the background when it comes to coffee, because it is a variable agriculture product. It can be excellent because of this capricious nature; good rains, favorable temperatures, the right blend of sun and shade. And it can be ruined by a moment of carelessness, by a freight backlog at port, by a residual odor, by unexpected rain on the drying patio. The same is true when we apply heat to coffee to roast it, when our grinder fails to “tear” the seed into regular shapes and creates powder, when the water is 192 f, not 198, not 203.
So if coffee is really about gaining control over variables in order to produce consistent satisfaction, why dwell upon the fact that it always threatens to slip beyond our control. Does our mastery of the bean make us enjoy it more, or isn’t there some enjoyment in our vexation too, in the variability of the crop, variability of the roast, of cup preparation. Is this a craft that we can ever truly master when it is a substance, coffee, that promises to defy our ability to
know it. Ah, grasshopper, that is a question time will answer. YAB (Yet Another Blog) I heard there weren’t enough “blogs on the ‘net” so I decided Sweet Maria’s should have one (joke). I use it to announce new coffee arrivals, make small commentary about the coffee trade, answer Home Roast Mail List questions in more detail, whine and moan … typical stuff like that. It features RSS feed so new posts can show up on your web browser start page, or wherever else you want it. It also links to our Flickr photo feed and to our coffee videos at Google. I think it will be useful, and plan to use it a lot! The link is http://www.sweetmarias.com/weblog -Tom

The Holiday Season
Did you hear the latest about nostalgia? It’s back again. So goes the joke, but the holiday season … now that’s unavoidable. And for us, it’s a mixed bag. I am officially a Grinch; having a retail business during the holidays will do that to a person. I will make my usual appeal to get holiday orders in early. Please understand that our usual 24-hour turn around on orders does not apply during November and December! We try, we really do. We work weekends, we come in early, we work late. But the volume of orders slows us down. Please do not wait until the last minute if you plan to roast coffee for gifts. And don't be alarmed if we are a bit slower in processing orders or answering email. Do let us know about problems as soon as you can so we have a chance to fix them. Also UPS and USPS generally see big increases in package volumes for the holidays- so damaged and lost packages are more likely. Please give yourself time to have a shipping problem, just in case. We think UPS, all faults considered, does a much better job in the holidays than Priority Mail. A few USPS packages seem to rematerialize on planets in distant solar systems. Anyway, here’s Our Holiday Schedule:

Thanksgiving: Closed November 23rd and 24th
Christmas: Closed December 20th through January 1st

2007 Re-open January 2nd 2007. Shopping cart will be off as usual from December 19th through 26th. December 12th at 9 am is the deadline to get orders in using regular UPS Ground or USPS Priority Mail delivery anywhere in the US. West Coast customers have a couple more days. –Maria, Derek & Erica (The Office Staff)

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1115 21st Street, Oakland CA 94607
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: info@sweetmarias.com
Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List
Oct 15, 2006 – check the web page for the latest list

Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu Hermosa $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
Costa Rica Pulp Natural -La Candelilla $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $47.31 $87.78
Costa Rica SM Select Peaberry $5.75 $10.93 $25.01 $47.73 $88.55
Costa Rica Tarrazu -Hacienda La Minita $6.80 $12.92 $31.62 $56.44 limit
El Salvador Cup of Exc #2 -Los Planes $21.90 1 lb limit.
El Salvador Cup of Exce #12 -El Zapote $9.20 1 lb limit
El Salvador Organic -Santa Adelaida $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $39.01 $72.38
El Salvador- The Juan Francisco Project $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
Guatemala Antigua Peaberry -Maria Especial $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $49.80 $92.40
Guatemala Cup of Excellence #1 - El Injerto $29.90 1 lb limit.
Guatemala Fraijanes - Finca Agua Tibia $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
Guatemala San Marcos -Finca Maria Elisa $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $39.01 $72.38
Guatemala FTO Quiche - Maya Ixil $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
Honduras Pacamara - Santa Marta Estate $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Mexico FTO Chiapas -Special Lot $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Mexico Organic Oaxaca -Finca El Olivo $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
Nicaragua Cup of Exc #3-El Cipres $8.80 1 lb limit
Nicaragua Cup of Exc. #17-San Antonio $6.50 $12.35 $28.28 $53.95 100.10
Nicaragua Matagalpa -Pacamara Peaberry $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $50.63 $93.94
Nicaragua Limoncillo Estate Var. Java $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Nicaragua FTO Lozahoren (Dipilto) $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $42.33 $78.54
Nicaragua Prodecoop Dipilto $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $38.18 $70.84
Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda Gesha $15.70 $29.83 2 lb limit
Panama Organic Los Lajones $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Brazil Fazenda Brauna Peaberry $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $42.33 $78.54
Brazil Organic Cachoeira -Yellow Bourbon $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $46.48 $86.24
Colombia Excelso 13556 $4.45 $8.46 $19.36 $36.94 $68.53
Colombia Huila -Palestina Micro-region $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Ethiopia FTO DP Lekempti $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Sidamo $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
Ethiopia Organic Idido Misty Valley DP $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $51.46 $95.48
Kenya Auction Lot 503-Gethumbwini Peaberry $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $46.48 $86.24
Kenya AA Auction Lot 438- Hiriga $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $48.14 $89.32
Kenya AA Auction Lot 764- Ndaroini Nyeri $6.40 $12.16 $27.84 $53.12 $98.56
Uganda Organic Bugisu $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
Yemen Mokha Sana'ani $6.40 $12.16 $27.84 $53.12 $98.56
Zambia AA+ Lupili Estate $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
Zimbabwe AAA - Dandoni Estate $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
India Monsooned Malabar "Elephant" $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $44.82 $83.16
Java Government Estate Djampit $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Papua New Guinea -Kimel Plantation $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $40.67 $75.46
Sulawesi Wet-Process TOARCO $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $49.80 $92.40
Sumatra Classic Mandheling $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Australia Mountain Top XF "Bin 35" $11.20 $21.50 $52.08 $92.96
SM's Moka Kadir Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $46.48 $86.24
SM's Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
SM's Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
SM's Decaf Espresso Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $46.48 $86.24
SM's Liquid Amber Espresso Blend $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
SM's French Roast Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $41.50 $77.00
SM's Puro Scuro Blend $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $44.82 $83.16
SM's Roasted French Chicory $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $39.84 $73.92
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
African Highlands WP Decaf $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $48.14 $89.32
Brazil Mogiana WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $42.33 $78.54
Colombia WP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $44.82 $83.16
Costa Rica La Magnolia SWP Decaf $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
El Salvador Las Ranas WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Ethiopia Natural (DP) Sidamo WP Decaf $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
Guatemala Santa Elena WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $43.16 $80.08
Indonesian Organic SWP Komodo Blend $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
Java WP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $44.82 $83.16
Mexico Organic Chiapas WP Decaf $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $43.99 $81.62
Panama WP Decaf -Panamaria Farm $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $45.65 $84.70
Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
Sumatra Organic Gayoland WP Decaf $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $48.97 $90.86
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 10 Lb 20 lb
Indian Robusta - Sethuraman Peaberry $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $39.01 $72.38
Thumbs Down: Vietnam Robusta Gr 1 $1.00 1 lb limit