Mt. Kenya is the focal point of a vast highland forest ecosystem in central Kenya. The peak itself is rarely seen, but its influence imbues the central counties of Kenya with its terroir. It is here along the outer edge of Mt. Kenya’s forests where, in high elevation communities flush with rivers and mineral-rich soil, many would agree the most superlative washed coffees in the world are grown and processed each year.
For us, Kenya season is a kind of holiday, where we lavish in the citric expression and flavor clarity of the origin and express reverence for those who work around the calendar cultivating its potential. Not to mention the rest of Kenya’s coffee industry, whose domestic marketing and auction institutions support a nation-wide microlot system in which no exporter even blinks at vacuum-packing a 3 bag lot.
Nyeri has the highest coffee pedigree in Kenya, due to its near-perfect situation within Mt. Kenya’s ample watershed, and its location on the border of Aberdare National Park–two lush, high elevation territories that combine to create one of East Africa’s best terroirs. Nyeri is home to some of the country’s most influential smallholder societies and coffee profiles with a kaleidoscopic diversity of tropical fruit flavors and zesty, acidic clarity.
Spotlight: Mahiga Factory
This is the year for Mahiga Factory. Royal is the exclusive buyer of multiple full outturns (processing batches) from Mahiga, whose sub-lots often break 90 points as we cup, and re-cup, what we believe are the brightest, sweetest Nyeri coffees of the year (which, as any Kenya lover knows, is saying a lot). Fermentation at Mahiga Factory is a distinct two-step process where parchment is rinsed at the halfway point and then submerged again under fresh water until fermentation is complete. We can only draw an anecdotal correlation between this extra step and the explosive flavor articulation of this year’s coffees, but it was a compelling observation from our most recent visit. Mahiga is a member of the extensive Othaya Farmers Cooperative Society, whose 19 factories and more than 14,000 farmers span much of southern Nyeri.
Kirinyaga is one of the smallest and yet best known of the central counties, next to its western neighbor, Nyeri. Year after year coffees are beloved for their jammy flavors, seductive tea-like aromatics and tart structures.
Rungeto Farmers Cooperative Society
We relish coffees from Rungeto Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS), popping with berry jam, mandarin, and lemongrass aromatics.
Baragwi Farmers Cooperative Society
Baragwi Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS) is Kenya’s largest single farmer society if measured in membership and harvested volumes, with almost 17,000 participating farmers. Baragwi’s peaberry grades were the standouts this year: deeply tart like grapefruit candy with mouth-watering layers of tarragon and sungold tomato.
Unique Producer Groups & Bulk Lots
Cooperative societies may dominate production in Kenya, but there are many different systems at work: large and small estates, microlot blends, even teachers’ colleges, are some of the unique producers Royal represents this year.