Introduction by Chris Kornman
This Kenyan offering, hails from Kirinyaga county, situated between Nyeri and Embu, forming a trifecta of coffee-producing regions that converge at the peak of Mt. Kenya and cascade down its southern slopes. In all of Africa, only Kilimanjaro tops the maximum elevation of Mount Kenya.
Karumandi is the the name of the factory (washing station) that produced this lot, located in North-Central Kirinyaga. Contributing farmers are members of the Baragwi Farming Cooperative Society, which operates a collection of 12 washing stations throughout Kirinyaga and has an active membership of almost 12,000 farming families.
Smallholders like those that contribute to Karumandi Factory tend to measure their plots by number of trees rather than acreage, averaging around 250 coffee plants per plot. 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. Kenya’s auction system elevates the value of exceptional coffees, and keeps the country’s coffee margins high, stable, and independent of the volatile C Market.
Like most Kenyan growing regions, coffee in Kirinyaga benefits from its equatorial location and two distinct annual rainy seasons, resulting in a main crop in the winter and a “fly” crop harvested in the summer. However, East Africa has been hard-hit by climate disruption in recent years, and Kenyan production is very low this year by comparison to last. Early predictions originally seemed to indicate a good year, but drought, irregular rains, and a frost in Othaya have cut yields for both main and fly crops.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
No real surprises here: this Kirinyaga is AA sized, high density and low in moisture. Kenya’s precision size grading, using the British classification system, ensures super-tight adherence to screen sizing. Raised bed drying and double-washing will keep this bright and juicy Kenyan coffee tasting great for months to come.
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 in the 1930s. Scott Labs 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, and excels at lower elevations. Both of these SL variants exhibit bronze-tipped leaves on the newest growth.
Joining the classics are two relative newcomers. Ruiru-11 was developed in the mid-1980’s as the result of attempting to make an SL-28 more productive and resistant to Coffee Berry Disease and Leaf Rust by crossbreeding with varieties as disparate as Sudan Rume (for quality) and Catimor (for disease resistance), among others. In response to qualitative feedback, the Coffee Research Institute retraced the steps to creating Ruiru-11, attempting to improve cup quality without compromising disease resistance. Since 2010, the new variety called Batian has trickled into production, and early results are promising.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Roast one and two demonstrate the difference a charge temperature can make. Roast one, with a lower charge temperature had more time to develop into a well rounded cup of coffee. Although the total time during the drying stage and the Maillard stage are longer, the overall ratio of the two is very different than roast two. Roast two, with its higher charge temperature, had a shorter total roast time which produced a much more tart and citrus driven cup, but also resulted in some brothy undertones. I recommend a short roast to retain as much of that vibrant Kenyan acidity that you desire, but beware of the large screen size and low moisture content that could result in some underdeveloped flavors as well.
Roast one: Blackberry, grapefruit, hibiscus, chocolate
Roast two: Lemongrass, honey, orange, herbal
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Getting deeper into explorations of heat application on the Behmor, I decided to ramp down heat after first crack on this delicate Kenyan coffee. From Jen’s prior notes, I understood that I needed to be careful with heat application on this coffee, so I engaged P3 immediately at first crack, and gave this coffee 1:10 development time at a lower heat level. This was certainly one of my lighter roasts, with 10.8% roast loss, and one cup even ‘self-broke’ on the cupping table (meaning the grounds fell without agitation).
I do think that this coffee could have handled more sugar development, but acids and fruits came through clearly. The large screen size and low moisture content of this coffee did indeed hold it back a bit. Look for lemon curd and tart plum flavors in this coffee, but err on the side of caution as far as development goes as this coffee tends to develop quickly after first crack.
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
This Kenya produced a very pleasant cup of coffee, without being the screamingly bright coffee you might expect. Jen’s first roast resulted in a cup with clear peach notes, and each of the tasters (Jen, Chris, and myself) noted a different type of citrus. So whether you’re looking for orange, lemon, or grapefruit, you may be satisfied regardless!
Jen’s second roast tended to pour through more slowly than the first, and may have been a bit more soluble. This roast tended to elicit more textural notes from all of us, and displayed everything from marshmallowy caramelized sugars to tart limey acidity. There is a lot to look forward to with this coffee, and each sip brought out more dimension.
We’re happy to be back in Kenya season!
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.