Running out of beans

After having finished the amazing reserves of coffee beans I’ve had brought to me by visitors, the sad time arrives when they run out… This happened last week so now I am resorting once again to supermarket coffee from St Maarten.

Which coffee do you drink?” is a question I get asked regularly. Well, I don’t make it a secret but bean selection on St Maarten is pretty poor and limited. I’ve tried all the coffees, both ground and whole bean, and my favorites are the house brands from either SuperU or Carrefour. Value/price is super. They both have the same supplier that packages the coffee in custom packages for both, but the coffee is identical as far as I have been able to test and taste.

They come in different “flavors”: Peru, Colombia, Brasil, Ethiopia and Mexico. The Peru and Ethiopia match the best with my tastes. Bold, strong smells and flavors, full bodied strong coffee with enough balance and sweetness not to make it too bitter. They are blends from 100% Arabica beans. Both of them.

Normal recipes call for 30 gr of coffee for 500 ml of water (at 92-96 Celsius) but since this is an espresso grind and not a filter grind (much finer than would should be used), I either use colder water than prescribed (82-86 C) or I reduce the amount of coffee by 10% (3 grams here).

My favorite brew methods are Aeropress in the morning (it makes a more bitter espresso-style cup) and Hario V60 in the afternoon (smoother, milder, less bitter oils)

Sourcing Great Coffee Beans for Sint Maarten

Getting good coffee on this island is a challenge. That’s funny because we live right in the middle of the some of the world’s best coffee countries. So you’d expect a larger selection. Sadly, the opposite is true.

While every coffee selling business here seems to focus on making coffee from cups (Nespresso, Lavazza, Illy) and the local population mostly used to and stuck with cheap, large scale, commercially produced filter coffee such as Santa Domingo ground coffee, very few places have whole coffee beans to begin with.

When I started to make an inventory of the equipment needed to create a Specialty Coffee shop on St Maarten, I immediately noticed the lack of good grinders & espresso machines, long delivery times, uncertain product availability and total lack of good single-origin coffee beans. Malongo, a large French roaster with a presence on the French side of this island (Saint Martin) was the exception. Sadly, their stock was low, the beans old (almost a year after packaging date, no roast date mentioned anywhere!) and the selection limited to four countries: Brasil, Colombia, Rwanda, Ethiopia. And they had just survived hurricane Irma as well but I have no idea how good or bad their stock survived that storm.

So I am doing what everybody here does: if you can’t get it here and people won’t get it for you, you find and buy it yourself in the US, send it to Miami, FL, and have it shipped here by one of the several shipping companies that visit the island at least twice week. Here’s the list of roasters that I’ve contacted and who’ve replied to me they’d be interested in selling us beans at wholesale:

I’m very excited to make a choice from these wonderful companies, their coffee descriptions online give me a lot of confidence that they are indeed “Third Wave Roasters” and take quality seriously. I still have an order coming in from Malongo that will last a while, but their orders take 2 months to fulfill and that’s simply too long. I contacted Smit & Dorlas in Curaçao but they don’t have single origin coffees, only blends – but can ship these in 2 weeks -, and blends are not what I want to serve in the Double Dutch Cafe for black coffees, if at all possible.

I will blog about the progress that I’m making in getting serious coffee to St Maarten and having people take coffee more seriously on this island. 🙂

Hand Grinder

I was surprised with a package from the Netherlands that someone forwarded for me. It contained the hand grinder I had ordered a while ago but was delivered after friends had already flown back to Sint Maarten.

Now I can take my Hario V60 or Aeropress anywhere and also grind whole beans on demand. This comes in handy because I’m always scouting for a cool great new pound of coffee beans and the lack of a portable grinder limited what I could source.

Im really happy with this product of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s solid, accurate, easy to use and clean and for a good price.

For the Market Cafe in Simpson Bay I’m still looking for an espresso bean to use and this way I can try a few samples without taking apart my commercial grinders for it!

Getting Started with Specialty Coffee

If you are serious about coffee and want to learn and experiment more, I’ve put together a list of items on Amazon that will help you getting started.

You basically have a choice to make about which brewing method to start with:

  • Aeropress
  • Chemex
  • Hario V60

If you prefer an espresso-style (stronger) cup of coffee, then choose Aeropress. If you prefer a more smooth, rich bodied cup of coffee.

Next, you will need to get a coffee bean grinder,a scale to measure the grinds with a precision of 0.1 grams, a water kettle with precise control of the water temperature and ideally also a thermometer to check the water temperature. But if you choose one of the kettles I’ve listed, they have a built-in thermometer so you can forgo that.

If you’re the only person drinking coffee at home (I sympathize with you) then you might want to get a great hand grinder and skip the more expensive Baratza grinder for now. You always get them later and then use the hand grinder for your travel needs!

hand grinder