Introduction by Chris Kornman
The Gatugi Factory (aka Washing Station) is located due south of Nyeri city, on the eastern edge of the Aberdares Mountains. The coffee produced there benefits from the forested mountain range’s fertile soil. This lot, grown by smallholder farmer members of the Othaya Cooperative, a collective of around 20 washing stations in and around Nyeri County. The county is bordered on the west by the Aberdares range, and on the northeast by Mount Kenya. 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.
The Gatugi factory receives coffee from its smallholder farmer members, typically counting their trees rather than the size of their land; most average just 250 coffee plants per farm. Many are inter-cropping to improve the biodiversity of the region and the security of their harvest, planting banana, grevillea, and macadamia in addition to coffee. The Gatugi Factory was built in 1979 at an elevation around 1860 masl, and is easily accessible via a nearby paved road. It is near a small forest called Karima, once the home to a sacred river that has since gone dry.
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 98% 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 . 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
This week, whether the coffee has been full washed or full natural, they have all been dense. The post crack development time in our first roast PR-356 was a huge indicator of this as the momentum plummeted after first crack. To rectify this, we decided to increase the heat just after first crack and we watched our rate of rise closely. As we gained momentum we turned the heat down and reduced the post crack development time by an astounding 46 seconds and we were able to keep the total post crack development time under two minutes. We were rewarded on the cupping table with a huge classic black currant acidity, sweet plum, candied cherries and a juicy orange.
Brew Analysis by Chris Kornman
I put this coffee through our standard “duelling Chemex” routine, more or less similar brew recipes with slightly different results. The unanimous cupping table performance remained consistent in our brew analysis, but while Richard, Jen, and I all preferred the second roast, PR-357, it was for different reasons than during cupping. PR-356 offered baked and dried fruit flavors with some chocolate and salted caramel, but was a bit flat and a hint toasty when compared with PR-357, which was tangy, full of blackberry and currant, and generally impressed us with its bright, clean, and classic Kenya stylings. In both cases, the coffee took a long time to brew and proved highly soluble. A combination of coarser grind and/or faster brew method might produce more elegant results, but the coffee was enjoyable despite my lack of early-morning patience.
This coffee is available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.