Many of us are accustomed to Kenya coffees being organized and sold in very small volumes that correspond to one specific estate or washing station (known as “factory” in Kenya) and one specific physical prep. While single-factory lots certainly dominate the highest quality tier, coffee exports as a whole in Kenya reflect the distribution of most producing countries elsewhere: as a wide triangle, with microlots at the top and bulk volumes of various transparency and quality standards comprising the larger, more efficient shipments. Kenya, working the way it does, means the microlot segment is proportionally large compared to other origins. But it rests upon, and interacts with, a bulk market nonetheless.
Each year Royal Coffee invests in select bulk lots with high transparency and very specific physical preparations, in addition to the microlot work. These coffees provide targeted profiles and roasting consistency over larger volumes and longer periods. There are myriad ways to build coffees like these, and considering the assertive attributes of Kenya’s coffee as a whole, each one is naturally a little different.
This year’s Kiambu AA FAQ is a combination of processed coffee from select producing groups across Kenya’s central Kiambu county, all of whom work with Dormans, a prolific and quality-focused milling and exporting network. “FAQ” in Kenya stands for “fair to average quality” and is a cup quality designation rather than a physical grade. So, combined with the physical grade, (in this case “AA” for the country’s larger screen sizes, 17-18) Kenya is able to offer interchangeable physical preparations and cup qualities from throughout the country.
Within this classification system, each exporter’s quality team is responsible for selecting appropriate coffees that fit the system’s expectations. But of course, no two final blends will be alike. Kiambu county, like most of Kenya’s central counties, is known for the country’s best terroir, highest growing elevations, and best-run coffee factories. The cuppers at Dormans carefully allocate deliveries from Kiambu factories over the course of many weeks until they have multiple cohesive FAQ-quality blend of coffees from Kiambu county, each with a unique character. This particular lot is rich and thick in tactile, bright and caramel-like in balance, with Meyer lemon, grapefruit and sweet bell pepper.