Introduction by Chris Kornman

Kenyan coffees, to borrow verbiage from the visual arts, often seem to paint their flavors with similar color palettes. And yet, I feel like every cupper has their own particular definition of what a “classic” Kenya might be. For me, it’s a combination of flavors like pink grapefruit and currant; for others maybe it’s the savory-sweet-sour combination of tomato and Meyer lemon. If you’re a fan of the latter, then this Red Cherry Project coffee from the Gatugi Factory will likely ring your bell.

Our CEO & Kenya buyer Max doubled down with longstanding partners at the Othaya and Aguthi Cooperative Societies this season to create a limited selection of coffees that go above and beyond. In exchange for an advance agreement to the highest price we paid for any Kenyan coffees this season, Red Cherry Project coffees undertook a number of extra steps to isolate and enhance the highest quality coffees. It’s a win-win scenario: we get great coffee, farmers get guaranteed pricing without having to wait for auction results.

Model farmers identified for exceptional performance were selected exclusively to participate, and asked to deliver only ripe cherries which undergo a secondary hand-sort visually and then a pre-fermentation soak (the first of three washes the coffee receives) to remove any low-density floaters before pulping. After an extended 72 hour fermentation and channel grading (the second wash) the wet parchment soaks for 16-24 hours in clean water (the third wash). In addition to the usual hand-sorting during parchment drying, the coffee spends time under shaded tarps prior to skin drying to help prevent damage from the sun, and once the parchment is fully dried it is stored in GrainPro packaging even before transportation to the dry mill.

All this makes for a spectacular offering we’re thrilled to roast, cup, brew, and share. Oh, and check this out: you can see the drying tables on Google Maps!

Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

A nice example of a super-dense Kenya AA, the highest value export for the country. AA indicates screen size 18-19 and these lots typically demand the highest prices in Kenya’s auction system. A well above average density is paired with a very dry constitution and moderate water activity figures, indicating a possible need for some extra heat during roasting – check Jen’s roast notes on this coffee to be sure.

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

The high density of this coffee aided in heat retention, resulting in a fast and quick roast. My second roast was drawn out almost a two full minutes longer with a lower rate of rise through the Maillard stage and post crack development. Visually, this coffee looked very light in the trier and I decided to leave the coffee in the drum for a 20% pcd which was 44 seconds longer than roast one. The fast approach produced a fruit acidity that was more balanced and juicy like cooked stonefruit, while roast two had a very bright and savory acidity with dried apricot and sundried tomato. The acidity of this coffee provides a very classic Kenyan flavor profile.

Roast one: Apricot, blackberry, juicy, honey

Roast two: Apple, tamarind, grapefruit, tomato

Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman

Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.


The Gatugi is a very dense coffee, and I planned to give it more heat before dropping it in the roaster. This coffee cracked slightly later than average, and started off with a few mild puffs that build into solid popping.

I allowed this coffee to develop at full heat for about 45 seconds before engaging P3. Something I noticed about engaging the numbered profiles during a roast is that they take about 15 seconds to kick in after you press the button. Keep that in mind and plan ahead a bit when performing these maneuvers.

Of this week’s Kenyan Crown Jewels, this is the one I roasted the lightest. At 11.4% roast loss, not much mass was sacrificed to the heat gods, and that’s after nearly 1:30 of development. On the cupping table, this roast got favorable reviews, with floral notes, sparkling acidity, and a very pleasant ripe cherry tomato brightness.

Brew Analysis by Richard Sandlin

Getting the pleasure to brew Kenyan coffees like this one may be the best line item on my job description. I bet if you are reading this, you are probably in a similar boat. It just doesn’t get much better than brewing fresh crop Kenyan coffee.

I wanted to compare and contrast Jen’s two roasts on two different brew methods. Having had our Bonavitas boxed up for a while, I wanted to compare our two most commonly used methods, the Bonavita BV1900TS and the Chemex.

Don’t let the high TDS & Extraction % numbers fool you, these coffee brewed on the Bonavitas  were brewed way out of the acceptable Gold Cup range,  1.15 – 1.35 TDS & 18 – 22 % extraction. Spoiler alert – they tasted great. Conventional wisdom would tell you NOT to drink these brews. This Kenyan coffee is so good, I’d be surprised if it could over-extract. Well – that’s only if you brew without a care in the world. Do you remember that kid growing up who would only practice free throws with their back facing the hoop? Don’t brew that way. But if you do, this coffee would still taste great.

The Chemex brews, with their more accepted ranges showed lots of great sweetness, citrus, caramel, riesling, and sparkling grape.

The Bonavita brews, with their higher than normal TDS & Extraction %’s brought heavy and thick sweetness, big body, citrus, stone fruit and custard.

If I were to serve these as part of a set menu, I’d serve the Chemex as an appetizer and the Bonavita as dessert.

This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.