Tagged "Kenyan Coffee"


An Origin Up-Close: East Africa

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

Divided from the rest of Africa by the immense Rift Valley there are many reasons why East Africa is the granddaddy of the coffee producing world. Encompassing two of Africa's tallest mountains, the world's second largest freshwater and second deepest lake not to mention home to the Big Five of the animal kingdom. This undulating landscape boasts a generally moderate climate with highs of 25c and lows of 15c at 1500masl creating some perfect coffee growing environments, and did I mention that its also the birthplace of coffee?

Although there are some great coffees coming out of many other countries in this region, this blog post will be focusing on four particular countries - Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Burundi.

The specialty coffee scene in Africa is dominated by the largest trade platform in Africa, the African Fine Coffee Conference (AFCA) formerly the East African Fine Coffee Association it consists of 11 member countries (Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, DRC, Cameroon, Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia) and is a member driven, non-profit and non-political association. Their goal is to create 'Sustainable Businesses for Happy Coffee People', what a great ethos to start from and it is really reflected in the quality beans that we are seeing coming out.

Tanzania

Home to Bourbon, Typica, Blue Mountain and Kent cultivars which are typically grown at around 1350 - 1800masl. Tanzania produces around 800,000 bags of coffee annually and is in close running with Kenya for being the 3rd or 4th largest arabica coffee exporter in Africa.

In Tanzania, we purchase our coffee direct from Acacia Hills, a beautiful estate owned by Mark Stell from Portland Roasting Company and Leon and Aideen Christianakis (local Tanzanian coffee farmers). The farm is surrounded by some of Africa’s most famous landscapes including the Ngorongoro crater and National Park which is teeming with all the quintessential African wildlife which make this area a spectacular and unique part of the world.

Elephants, giraffes, hippos, buffalo, zebras, wildebeest, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetah and hyenas are all found here — to name just a few! One of the biggest challenges of the farm is keeping its workers safe from elephants stamping through the fields. Acacia Hills Estate has been in existence for over 50 years, but it was only five years ago that it was re-invigorated with a new ‘speciality’ approach.

Now things like variety, processing, soil analysis, sides of the mountain etc. matter and are taken into account over the whole growing process. What had become an old, disused farm is now thriving and green and is finally producing the abundant crops of beautiful coffee which they always knew this region was capable of. It’s a real testament to their hard work and effort — and also their passionate belief that they could make their little place on the top of the ridge into something special. The farm currently harvests Bourbon and Kent varieties and is in the process of experimenting with Geisha, Pacamara and Castillo.

The farm house looks over the lush coffee trees with an unobstructed view of the mountains and Lake Eyasi. The farm itself is the highest altitude farm in the region and they have planted the Geisha and Pacamara varieties at the very top at 1900masl. This small estate has its own purpose-built cupping lab with everything required to analyse coffees onsite. They use a brand new Penogas wet mill and specialise in micro-lots and honey milled coffees; all the coffees are dried on raised beds. It’s all about the small details here and we consider this estate a bit of a diamond in the rough.

Ethiopia

The Rift Valley is steeped in human and religious history and often considered not only the birthplace of coffee but all of mankind after 3.2 million year old 'Lucy' and her 4.4 million year old big brother 'Ardi' was discovered here. The latter inspired the name of one of our much loved singles - Ardi Sidama.

Around 10,000 years ago, Ethiopia not only created the perfect climatic conditions for human reproduction but also for the Coffea Canephora T and Coffea Eugenioides to create a little arabica baby. So began a coffee production in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is the 5th largest producer in the world, exporting an astounding 6.6 million bags a year and employing an estimated 15 million people in some way along the production line. A real powerhouse of on the global coffee market.

We have been working with Sammy at Keffa Coffee for the last five years. Over this time we have managed to secure constantly outstanding lots through the ECX (where most of the Ethiopia's beans are traded) which maintain their flavour and quality consistency.

Kenya

The coffees from Kenya are renowned for their unique fruit character, intense acidity, rich body and constant cleanliness with many factors contributing to these great qualities in the cup. From Kenya’s location, right along the equator, to uncommon varietals and exceptional growing conditions, Kenya is perfectly suited to growing great quality Arabica coffees.

Ranked 16th as a global producer they have been honing their craft since 1890s and held the first ever coffee auction in the 1930s. Producing a similar annual yield as Tanzania, Kenyan coffee is typically grown between 1400 - 2200masl in its rich red volcanic soils and the shadow of Mount Kenya all creating perfect growing conditions.

Co-ops and private estates produce the majority of coffee which is, for the most part, wet processed or double fermented and then dried on raised beds to ideal moisture levels of 9.5-10.5%.

We work with Cafe Imports to bring some delicious coffee over from Kenya and maintaining the reputation for clean, crisp and consistent beans.

Burundi

Burundi, not unlike Rwanda, is quite unique as most of the country lies at a very high elevation, the lowest elevation being 700masl with the majority of the land is over 1000masl - perfect growing conditions.

Burundi is a land locked country but it has access to the 2nd largest fresh water lake in Africa but means they must export through neighbouring countries rather than directly themselves but they still manage to export around 200,000 bags annually.

We work with the Long Miles Project which is headed up by Ben and Kristy Carlson. They started with just one washing station and have gone on to set up three more, working with over 140 family units at the stations. They produce beautiful washed and natural coffees here such using bourbon and local bourbon hybrids.

We will be hosting a Burundi Curated cupping featuring our Heza Hills and Nkonge Hill on Thursday 10th May at 22 Martin Road. Come down and give them a try!

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Clean, crisp & consistent: Kenya’s Double Ferment Process

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

The coffees from Kenya are renowned for their unique fruit character, intense acidity, rich body and constant cleanliness with many factors contributing to these great qualities in the cup. From Kenya’s location, right along the equator, to uncommon varietals and exceptional growing conditions, Kenya is perfectly suited to growing great quality Arabica coffees.

Amongst these factors processing is possibly the least appreciated by outsiders, but fortunately, the growers of coffee in Kenya still treat this important step with an unparalleled degree of precision and care.

It’s used almost exclusively nationwide, and is considered best practice by most farmers; and given the results, who can question them?

Common Man Coffee Roasters Online Shop Double Fermentation UnCommon

Ferment 1

In the double fermentation processing method, farmers de-pulp the cherries immediately after harvest and place the mucilage coated seeds in fermentation tanks, with minimal water contact, for 12 to 24 hours depending on the rate of fermentation.

The fermentation helps to break down the mucilage making it easier to remove, but also helps to develop the mucilage’s latent fruit character, imparting some of that character into the coffee seed.

In this first stage, the fermentation is allowed to continue until a large portion of the mucilage starts to separate from the seed. The coffee is the flushed from the tanks, into water channels where the agitation helps to rinse and remove the loose mucilage, stopping the fermenting process. Seeds that are low density ‘floaters’ are also scooped off at this stage of the process, one of many steps ensuring the consistent high quality of Kenyan coffee.

Common Man Coffee Roasters Shop Online Kenyan Coffee

Ferment 2

After the coffee has been cleaned, step one is repeated, soaking in a secondary fermentation tank for another 12 to 24 hours. This will restart the fermenting process but this time with less sugar and fruit material available. When this second stage is up, the coffee is once again run through water channels where any final residual mucilage is removed.

AA’s typically are associated with higher prices with the theory that the seed has received more nutrients from the parent plant, developing not only size but also sugars and organic acids. There are a few other screen sizes in addition to the three listed above, but these other sizes rarely make specialty grade.

Common Man Coffee Roasters Shop Online Kenya Coffee

Washing

Once the coffee has been separated, the various lots are moved into their own water tanks where the coffees are soaked for an additional 24 hours. Since the mucilage is has been completely removed, and the coffee is soaking in significantly more water, it’s assumed that enzymatic activity in the coffee increases in this soaking tank, resulting in a strengthening of the amino acids and proteins present in the coffees.

Common Man Coffee Roasters Shop Online Kenya Coffee Double Fermentation

Drying & Grading

The soaked seeds are then taken out and placed on raised drying beds and spread to a depth of a couple of inches. The idea is to initially dry the coffee rapidly to drop the moisture content and reduce risk. After this initial fast drying period, the coffee is heaped into 6 inch deep mounds and moves into a longer, slower stretch of drying to encourage longer term green quality stabily. Time on the raised beds can vary greatly dependant on temperature and weather but the coffee needs to be constantly turned during this period to achieve even drying. Once the moisture of the coffee reaches around 11-12%, this essentially concludes the processing of Kenyan coffee. They’re finally dry hulled, graded and prepped for export.

While this double ferment processing method used across Kenya is fairly labour intensive and requires a heavy water and resource usage, we’re thankful that it’s so consistently followed as we believe that it’s one of the key influences in the spectacular coffee that the country manages to produce year after year.

Try at home

Why not try our Karatina AA filter roast and see if you agree with us, grab a bag from our store!

*this article first appeared on Five Senses Australia's blog earlier this year
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