Introduction by Chris Kornman
The Mahiga Factory (aka Washing Station) is located in the valley between the Arberdares mountains and Mount Kenya – Africa’s 2nd tallest peak – and much of the coffee produced in the region benefits from the forested mountain range’s fertile soil. This lot was grown by smallholder farmer members of the Othaya Cooperative, a collective of around 20 washing stations in and around Nyeri County.
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 Mahiga 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 Mahiga Factory was built in 1962 at an elevation around 1812 masl, and uses water from the nearby Mumwe river to pulp cherry.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This lot is very dense and very dry, even for a Kenyan coffee. Its screen size, and really the fact that the lot is peaberry, is what makes it especially unique. The peaberry (referred to as caracol in Latin America) is generally recognized to be a developmental anomaly that results in the presence of a single seed inside the cherry, rather than two. Our affection for the funny round little seeds might simply be visual appeal – they’re adorable and often pleasantly uniform both before and after roasting. It’s possible, but generally disputed, that peaberries may have more concentrated flavor. They most definitely present challenges in drying and roasting, as their shape, size, and density don’t absorb heat in the same manner as a flat bean. Combined with the uneven sizing of this lot, Jen’s recommendations below will be an invaluable resource for roasting this deceptively tricky but deliciously rewarding coffee.
This peaberry 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
The screen size variance on this Kenyan Peaberry was quite a large spread and was apparent in the roaster when we started to hear signs of first crack at 384 °F, but did not truly get going until 392.9 °F. This extremely dense coffee needs a lot of energy and an extra boost of energy just after first crack to pull it out of its nose dive. Kenyan coffees have a unique and dynamic acid structure that hits its peak in intensity shortly after first crack. Prolonging the post crack development time will round out this acid structure and create more cooked fruit flavors in the cup which some perceive as sweeter and less tart. Our first roast, PR-370 was slightly shorter and lower by 6 °F in the end temperature than PR-371. That small change was the difference between a floral, grapefruit, green apple, and sweet yellow tomato Kenyan coffee to a big bodied black currant, plum, fig and honey Kenyan coffee. Both roasts were extremely delicious.
Brew Analysis by Richard Sandlin
Have you ever put beans in the hopper, started grinding & realized you did something wonderful? It should be no secret that I love brewing (and drinking) Kenyan coffee and I was thrilled to brew dueling Chemi with Chris. We brewed both roasts with a larger water to coffee ratio than we typically brew but PR-370 was our favorite. PR-370 brought blackberry, currant, caramel & nougat while PR-371 had orange, cinnamon toast, caramel & honey.