Introduction by Chris Kornman
This coffee, along with its smaller size companion lot, come to us from the infamous Nyeri district, near the base of Mount Kenya, north of Nairobi near the center of the country. In all of Africa, only Kilimanjaro tops the maximum elevation of Mount Kenya.
Nyeri’s coffees are highly coveted for their exceptional quality, so much so that a recent governor attempted to seize all control of the district’s exports. After an unfortunate season where excellent coffee sat in warehouses, abandoned for political posturing, coffee is once again flowing from the district.
This lot was processed at the Gatomboya Factory (the Kenyan term for what is called a washing station, wet mill, or beneficio elsewhere in the world), after harvest on the small family plots of some 600 members of the Barichu Cooperative Society. The typical farmer here counts their trees rather than the size of their land; most average just 250 coffee plants per farm and as a group produce just a single 40,000 pound container of finished green coffee per season. Gatomboya is a word taken from the local Kikuyu dialect meaning “swamp,” indicating the presence of a water source nearby – indeed, the coffee was fermented and washed in water from the Gatomboya river.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Kenyan coffees are graded by the British sizing system, classifying coffees by letter designations. AA is the largest valuable grade (there is an E grade larger, but it trades at lower value), and AB is the next down. In accordance with the grading, this lot is nearly 95% screen 18+, making the seed size both large and uniform. Nowhere else in the world claims the degree of precision screen sizing as Kenya. Also note the very high density, again typical for quality offerings from Kenya but rare elsewhere in the world.
The lot is built on a blend of common Kenyan varieties. SL-28 and SL-34 are two of the most highly regarded varieties produced by Scott Laboratories in Kenya, which no longer exists as such, but is now the National Agricultural Laboratories, a part of the larger Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization. Both varieties are Bourbon derivative cultivars, though from different lineages: SL-28 was developed from a drought-resistant variety originally cultivated in Tanganyika, a territory that makes up part of modern day Tanzania; it’s generally considered to be of the highest quality but is not very productive compared to other commercial Arabica varieties. SL-34 is a Kenyan mutation originally found near Kabete. Both of these SL variants exhibit bronze-tipped leaves on the newest growth. Ruiru-11 is a newer cultivar, originating in the mid-1980’s, the result of attempting to make an SL-28 more productive and disease resistant by crossbreeding with varieties as disparate as Sudan Rume (for quality) and Catimor (for disease resistance), among others.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Roasting this coffee was a bit of a learning curve for me as I readjusted back into work from my maternity leave. For some reason, most of my roasts came out too dark, as I concentrated more on what I thought I did several months ago instead of what was happening in the drum right now. This Kenya in particular has gorgeous and refined black currant and lime notes, but unlike some other Kenyan coffees it doesn’t scream at you. My first two roasts were solid mediums on the ColorTrack. Although there was a beautiful dark chocolate, with fig and raisin, the acids were subdued and I wanted to re-roast them to see if there wasn’t more that I could pull from this coffee. I suggested to Evan that they might make a lovely shot of espresso instead of a sparkling filter brew.
On my re-roasts, my first attempt PR-0330, flew by and I ended up with a profile more similar to a light roasted sample roast. Several gorgeous acids were showcased like peach, fresh berries, a vibrant lime and floral honey, but I knew that there could be even more balanced sugar development if I extended the roast time. Our second roast, PR-0331, did just that and we were rewarded with black currant jam, vanilla sweetness and maintained that bright limeade that we cherished in PR-0330. By reducing my Charge temperature from 382.5 °F to 376.6 °F and keeping all of my other metrics the same I was able to extend the roast by 42 seconds and created the flavor profile that I had hoped for.
Brew Analysis by Richard Sandlin
Brewing this coffee altered slightly from our previous brew analyses. While the data collected was similar, I took a different approach when collecting it. Thanks to a busy travel schedule and a few teammates battling common colds, I reached out to our traders for their experience comparing and contrasting these two roasts of the same coffee.
My process? I dropped two cups in front of them, clearly stating which was which, and asked for both their preference and some tasting notes. With the changing of the seasons, it’s nice to mix up the routine.
Below you’ll find a chart outlining the competing Chemex brews, both intended to be as identical as possible to showcase the difference in Jen’s roast profiles.
I loved brewing & drinking both these roasts, and I’m sure you will too.
This coffee is available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.