Myanmar Shan Coffee Villages

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is an unusual coffee origin. Sweet Maria’s, my supplier for this one, likes to pick up unusual origins, but note that they have not offered a coffee from Myanmar since perhaps 2000. Drinking single origin coffees can be a little bit like birdwatching. Bragging rights count for something—oh, yes, I’ve had coffee from Myanmar…!

Sweet Maria’s describes this particular coffee thus:

A green herbal and roasted barley aromatics accent sweet flavors of honey wheat cereal and malt syrup, and flavor elements of squash and pumpkin cooked with brown sugar and butter. City+ to Full City.

I am generally reluctant to get into flavor comparisons of the squash/pumpkin sort. Good coffee should first and foremost taste like coffee, which I would say is basically a combination of first, bitterness, then a generally caramel sweetness, and lesser components, which can be described generally as nutty, chocolate-y, fruity, floral.

This particular coffee does not to my mind particularly stand out on any of those characteristics, though sweetness is probably the thing that most easily comes to mind. At the end, once cool, chocolate becomes predominant. Overall, quite a pleasant drink.

As far as production and processing, this coffee is grown by smallholders, by small, an individual farmer will likely be producing less than 10-130lb bags. The coffee is gathered and processed at a wet mill, which is the more modern method of preparing coffee and tends to produce a cleaner cup with less defects and rustic flavors. (note: defects, in many cases are an essential element of the flavor of dry processed coffees, particularly) This is a relatively low grown coffee 3000-5000 ft.

Rwanda Karenge Coffee Villages

This is a nice solid Rwandan coffee. As is typical of this origin it isn’t outrageous in any way, just a nice solid every morning coffee. Karenge is a region in eastern Rwanda. Coffee Villages is the name of the milling station where the raw coffee beans are processed. These are often named after the nearest town, but in this case that name was taken.

I am particularly fond of Rwandan coffees. They are fairly predictable, and have both a solid balance of qualities and enough difference to distinguish them. This Karenge is typical, in that it has a lot of solid coffee taste, while having enough brightness not to be in any way dull. You may notice some citrus fruit flavor here. This is definitely not an acidic coffee. Rwandas may not often be sensational, but they definitely grow on you. While I am definitely a fan of the other more outspoken East African origins, in particular, Ethiopia and Yemen, some of my very favorites, all time, have been Rwandans.

How to not run out of coffee

Empty Coffee CupFirst, there’s a lot of other coffee in the world, so no one’s likely to have to go without. But we’d like you to be able to drink fresh Hayes Home Roast with as little interruption as possible.

The best way to never run out is to get an extra pack, and stick it in the freezer unopened, so as to avoid picking up taints. Freezer coffee is comparable to real fresh coffee, but has a significantly shorter open freshness period, closer to a week than to two. When you go to use it, it’s not a bad idea to let it warm to room temperature before you open the pouch, though this may be unnecessary nuance. Or you can just open the bag and go!

You should probably rotate it for a new one every month or two, though the coffee will in all likelihood be acceptable even after that. If you find yourself more than two packs ahead, let me know, and we can make an adjustment.

I’m a believer in not putting things in the way of the simple enjoyment of coffee. You may lose as much enjoyment by feeling you’re not living up to some exacting requirement as you might from the actual degradation of the coffee. If you derive enjoyment from the ritual and fussiness, that’s okay, too.

The main thing I’ve noticed is that the difference in result when starting with superior quality fresh coffee leaves a lot of room for a better than average coffee experience, even if you don’t follow all the rules religiously!

Indonesia Bali Kintamani Blue Moon

Bali Kintamani "Red Cherry". Photo by MTC Group on flickr.
Bali Kintamani “Red Cherry”
Bali is one of the Indonesian islands, and, while not the most well known for its coffee production, has had coffee under cultivation for roughly 300 years. The Kintamani region was basically put out of business about 50 years ago by a volcanic eruption, but has since built back up.

This is a middle of the road Indonesian in the cup, not too earthy and not as bright as some of the newer coffees coming out of this origin.

Sulawesi Bone Bone Village

Bone Bone Village, by MTC Group on flickr
Bone Bone Village
How could I resist trying a coffee from a place called Bone Bone Village? They say “bo-nay bo-nay”, but still.

Thick bodied and sweet, with what’s referred to as complex rustic flavors. It doesn’t hurt with this sort of coffee preparation to check for discolored beans and remove them.

Ethiopia Dry Process Gey Harar

Harari Traditions
Harari Traditions
This is as close to a Yemeni coffee flavor profile as I’m likely to be able to offer as part of our Coffee of the Week offerings. Yemenis are expensive and can be hard to get in quantity.

Harar is a distinct Ethiopian region, with a dryer climate and a different tradition of coffee cultivation and processing from the more familiar Yirgacheffe region. Due to the aridity of the Harar region, coffees are necessarily dry process since the amounts of water necessary for wet processing are simply not available.

Overall, considering the local cultivation methods and the dry processing, and the similarity of the varieties involved, both Ethiopian and Yemeni coffees being essentially heirloom varieties, Harars are closely akin to Yemenis. They share a rustic wild character, engendering descriptives such as leather and wood, but in the case of the Harars also possessing a typically Ethiopian fruit and flower character.

This particular coffee is sweet, heavy bodied and complex, with a range of flavor notes reaching from leather and wood to fruit and flower. Probably not to everyone’s taste. This is not a mild, simple coffee, but if variety in coffee intrigues you, you don’t want to miss this one.

Mexico Organic Oaxaca La Lagunilla Cooperative

Cathedral of Oaxaca by Russ Bowling on flickr
Cathedral of Oaxaca
This coffee is a blend of coffees from forty different farmers with small holdings in and around the small town of Cacolotepec in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Oaxaca has a robust agricultural sector, of which coffee is only a part. The La Lagunilla Cooperative is recently formed and handles the latter stages of the coffee milling and the marketing. This is a wet process, organic certified coffee.

While brighter than the Cameroon Mifi Longberry which I ordered at the same time, this is also a sweet and bodied coffee with emphasized notes of coffee, nuts, and dark sugar. One of the terms that Sweet Maria’s uses to describe this coffee is “coffee-like”. Again, another venture into finding a mild, balanced coffee without particular extremes. And I will have more to say when it arrives and I can roast a sample.

This is definitely a nutty coffee, at the same time fairly bright. I would not call it fruity or floral in any way. Hazelnuts come to mind. Quite distinctly sweet.

Cameroon Mifi Java Longberry

Cameroon Coffee Forest
Cameroon Coffee Forest
This is an unusual origin, and not often seen. I, personally, have never had a Cameroonian coffee. It’s another of my selections exploring mild, daily drinking coffees. Sweet Maria’s description notes this is a low acid cup with noticeable body and sweetness. I’m presently still waiting arrival of this shipment, and will let you know more about it once I have it in hand and can roast up a sample.
Photo: Trees for the Future, License: CC-BY-2.0

Sumatra Lintong 17+ Toba Batak

Lake Toba
Lake Toba
This is a Sumatran coffee, thus Indonesian, and the most common Indonesian origin. Lintong is a city, Toba a lake and Batak the ethnicity of the farmers in this region.

17+ refers to bean size. 17 is fairly large. In and of itself size isn’t that much of a determinant of flavor, but larger sizes mean that the coffee has been more carefully picked over during processing, and at least with Indonesians a certain portion of defects associated with small bean size are minimized.

This is a wet process Sumatran, which excludes some of the earthy natural flavors often associated with Indonesian coffees, actually a byproduct of the more problematic dry processing methods traditional in this origin. It’s still quite distinct from the floral and fruitily aromatic coffees of Africa. This coffee’s traditionally Indonesian with darker aromatics which become quite chocolatey as the cup cools.

I tend to roast this coffee a bit toward the dark end of the range. It would make a good Vienna roast, as the dominant flavor elements are capable of surviving a darker roast, and the roast flavors, more noticeable as the roast darkens, go well with the underlying flavors of this sort of coffee. Darker roasting also mutes the acidity of coffee, which, since this is a coffee without as much of the lighter notes that are acidity related, lets you have a milder coffee without losing the important specific qualities of the bean.

Photo: Global Panorama on flickr, License CC-BY-2.0

Brazil Pulp Natural Fazenda do Sertao

parrotThey grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, as has been drummed into our psyches since at least the 50s. But most of it isn’t all that good.

Most Brazilian coffee is grown at low altitudes, which results in low density beans, which equate with not so exceptional tasting coffee. Think Maxwell House and CocaCola! But they grow so much coffee in Brazil and some portion of it at heights that there’s some pretty good coffee available from this origin.

Fazenda do Sertao is the name of the farm and roughly translates to ‘backwoods farm’ It’s decent sized, approximately 600 acres, and coffee from different parts of the farm is segregated into separate small lots. This lot would not be thought of as a super cup. Coffee cuppers rate coffees on a 100-point scale. To be considered specialty coffee, the designation used for high quality coffees, a coffee has to score at minimum in the mid 80s. Sweet Maria’s cuppers have rated this coffee at 84.8, which is firmly in the low end of the range. So why are they selling it and why am I offering it?

The rating system for coffee is designed to facilitate the buying of large quantities of coffee, tons, really, and to avoid coffee with noticeable defects. Essentially any coffee scoring in the specialty range is pretty good stuff.

The rating system is also so constructed to favor coffees with lighter flavor elements predominant. This means Kenyas and Central Americans have an inherent advantage when scored. This is fine if you tend to like the more aromatic and necessarily acidic coffees. But it means darker toned coffees, Indonesians and certain American coffees will always score lower. The more rustic Ethiopians, and Yemenis tend not to score very high, though mostly because they often are formally defective, though the “defects” in this case are really what make these coffees particularly desirable.

This coffee has prominent body and predominant nut and cocoa flavors. Very different from a highly floral, fruity Ethiopian, and not really to be compared on an equal basis. The two are really distinctly different drinks. You’ll likely find you have a preference for one or the other type, or that you enjoy the variation.

Photo by Steve Wilson. License CC BY 2.0