From the Mountains of Kenya to Your Cup
Let’s take a quick “trip” to Kenya today, shall we? This is the land of diversity, where the wildlife and the people are as unique as the coffee they produce. If you're a coffee enthusiast (like us at Mokkamestarit), you're in for a treat! In this blog post, we'll explore the coffee of Kenya, take a closer look at the Kiamwangi washing station where we found our new outstanding lot, and reveal some interesting facts about Kenyan coffee that may trigger your taste buds.
Let's start with the climate and soil. Kenya's high altitudes and cool temperatures provide the perfect environment for Arabica coffee to grow slowly, resulting in a complex and nuanced flavor profile. The coffee plants are grown in volcanic soil, which is rich in minerals and nutrients that help the plant grow larger and give the coffee a silky body, medium to high acidity and high in sweetness.
Altitude plays a crucial role in the quality of Kenyan coffee. Usually, the coffee grown in the highlands is considered to have better quality, as it is exposed to more sunlight, cooler temperatures, and has a longer development period. The Kiamwangi washing station is located at an altitude of over 1700masl, making it one of the highest coffee-growing areas in Kenya.
Coffee production in Kenya mainly comes from smallholder farmers, who own an average of half an acre of land. These farmers are organized into cooperatives, which ensure that they have access to the resources they need to produce high-quality coffee. The cooperatives also provide training and support to the farmers, enabling them to improve their yields and quality.
You already know that Kenyan coffee is known for its high quality and is often considered to be among the best in the world. But why? Here, the coffee is graded based on size, shape, and density, with the highest quality beans being specified as AA. The Kiamwangi washing station has strict quality control measures in place, ensuring that only the best beans are selected for processing. AB is another common grade that represents about 30% of Kenya's coffee production. While it's often seen as lower quality than AA, we've actually found some amazing AB beans, for instance, our previous Kenya AB Ndaroini, which tasted even better than some of the other AA coffee we cupped this and last year. So even though the grading system tells us briefly what to expect, it acts like a book cover. To us at Mokkamestarit, we have to taste it to believe it. Last but not least, there's PB (Peaberry). These make up about 10% of Kenya's production and are the result of a coffee cherry only producing one bean instead of two. This means the beans are fused together into a round shape instead of two halves.
Besides the grading system, the coffee variety plays a crucial role in forming the flavor profile of your cup. There are several varieties that are common in Kenyan coffee, for example:
- SL28 is a variety of Arabica coffee that was developed in the 1930s in Kenya. It's known for its complex, fruity flavor profile, which often includes notes of blackcurrant, red currant, and cherry. The coffee also tends to have a bright acidity and a clean finish, making it a favorite among coffee lovers.
- Ruiru is another variety of Arabica coffee that was developed here (named after a municipality in Kenya). It's known for its bold, full-bodied flavor profile, with notes of chocolate, nutmeg, and blackberry. The coffee also tends to have lower acidity and a smooth finish.
- Batian is a newer coffee variety in Kenya (named after Batian Peak), developed in the early 2000s as a hybrid of Ruiru and Timor coffee. It's known for its strong, bold flavor profile, with notes of dark chocolate, blackcurrant, and hints of citrus. The coffee also tends to have higher acidity and a clean finish.
Coffee production has had a significant impact on the lives of the people in Kenya. It is estimated that over 700,000 people are employed directly or indirectly in the coffee industry. The cooperatives provide a stable source of income for the smallholder farmers, enabling them to improve their standard of living and invest in their communities.
However, in recent years, amazing-tasting Kenyan coffee can be rare and difficult to find. Climate change, pests, and diseases have been affecting coffee production here, not to mention a considerable amount of land is converted from coffee production into real estate, resulting in lower yields and a decline in quality. Many smallholders are struggling with payments, corruption and low yields. Nevertheless, coffee cooperatives are working hard to address these issues and continue producing high-quality coffee for the world to enjoy. The decline in rainfall has made it more difficult for farmers to produce AA-grade coffee (there is an increase in AB-grade instead). That being said, the weather conditions have made it an advantage for processing and drying the coffee, resulting in the consistently high cupping score that we expect from Kenyan coffee.
Therefore, we are very pleased to find this lot of Kenya AA TOP Kiamwangi. Kenyan coffee is typically characterized by its bright acidity, bold flavor, and fruity notes. For this reason, we choose to roast it light (1/5) to ensure the original flavors of the beans can travel from the farm to your cup. This coffee has multiple flavor layers of jasmine, berry, tangerine and vanilla with a sweet and lingering aftertaste. You can expect a very clean cup with a silky mouthfeel, medium body and sharp, bright acidity.
In conclusion, Kenya is truly a specialty coffee lover's paradise, and the Kiamwangi washing station is an example of the quality and care that goes into producing exceptional coffee. From the unique climate and soil to the producers, every aspect of the coffee industry in Kenya contributes to its highly regarded quality. So, let’s grab a cup of Kenyan coffee, savor the flavors and together appreciate the dedication that went into producing it.
- Long Nguyen -