£16.00 – £39.50
ProducerKarumandi Wet Mill, Baragwi Farmers Co-operative Society
Cup ProfileCitrus, Lime, Gooseberry, Red Currant, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Dried Fruits, Green Tea
PreparationWet pulped, with 24 hour dry fermentation and 24 hour soak. Dried for 11-14 days on raised beds
TerroirKarumandi, Kirinyaga county
GeneticsSL28 & SL34
Being a coffee roaster is a great job. Being a coffee buyer is a great job. Doing both is even better… and being tasked with finding the right lot of Kenyan is one challenge that is part of that appeal. We’re not kidding! We’ve cupped, re-cupped and cupped again, exploring coffees from a number of different areas, produced by a variety of community wet-mills and even the odd estate, looking for something that we know our customers will love. And here it is, the Karumandi Cooperative washing station’s finest grade of coffee. In the cup, it’s beautifully light, perfect for filter or a bright sparkling espresso with hidden depths and prominent berry sweetness. As always, obsessive tasting informs our roasting. This version of Karumandi Community Washing Station’s coffee has well structured and crystal clear acidity that rolls beautifully into juicy sweetness followed by delicate green tea in the finish. Our cupping notes, refer to the acidity in terms of citrus, lime and gooseberry. Sweetness comes through as juicy red currant, hibiscus and tamarind, dried berries and treacley fruitcake. The last thing to come through is subtle green tea, adding a further dimension to this vibrant cup.
We particularly love brewing this by hand when we can find the time, putting in the work to squeeze out the last ounce of juiciness from this spectacular coffee, grown just a stone’s throw to the south of Mount Kenya National Park.
The team at Karumandi Coffee Factory does a great job of processing coffee for their members. The facility itself was founded in 1961, to service the needs of the members of the Baragwi Farmers Co-operative Society in the area of Karumandi. The co-operative’s membership numbers around 1000 and is made up of smallholders, who grow coffee alongside other crops such as mango, potato, avocado or papaya, as well as livestock or poultry. As is common with most co-operative coffee processing facilities, each farmer takes their day’s pickings for processing, and while this may sound straightforward, geographical proximity helps facilitate prompt delivery. This is key when we consider the challenges faced by coffee farmers all over the world in the form of poor road and transport infrastructure in rural areas. Baragwi Farmers Co-op Society operates another 11 factories, each located in the heart of the rural communities they serve. The nearest is Guama, just a couple of miles away.
Our lot from Karumandi is made up of two varieties favoured in the region and widely grown throughout Kenya (and other East African countries, also rapidly gaining popularity among forward thinking farmers around Central and South America), namely SL28 and SL34. The first, SL28 is a high yielding variety, capable of exceptional cup quality and associated with intense lemon acidity along with great sweetness and complexity. It originates from a single plant in the variety garden of Scott Agricultural Laboratories at Kabete in the early 1930s. This plant was part of a group of trees grown from drought resistant seeds brought back from the Moduli district of Tanzania by A D Trench, senior coffee officer of Scott Laboratories. The progeny bread from this plant was named SL28 and its seeds have gone on to shape the landscape and cup profile of what we consider to be Kenyan coffee today. Recently, genetic testing has been able to confirm that it is related to the Bourbon genetic group. It is also worth noting that, according to World Coffee Research’s extensive variety catalog, this highly prized variety is also considerably susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease, Nematodes and Leaf Rust.
SL34 on the other hand was selected by Scott Laboratories from Loresho Estate, a local partner working with the Kabete research center. It appears that in 1893, French Spiritan missionaries had brought coffee seeds from the French the island of La Reunion, then a French colony named Bourbon. These seeds were apparently planted at Bura in Kenya and some of the seedlings made their way to another mission, this time in Saint Austin, near Nairobi. Recent genetic testing casts doubt on this story, however, as they reveal that SL34 is in fact related to the Typica genetic group. Either way, this variety is perfectly suited to high elevations at these latitudes and is resistant to heavy rainfall, as well as producing a cup with complex citric acidity and a heavy mouthfeel. Like SL28, it is also susceptible to the major coffee diseases and parasites, requiring careful management to ensure it fulfils its potential.
In the Central Highlands, SL28 and SL34 thrive. Once the hand-picked, ripe cherries are delivered, Karumandi’s team can begin the process of transforming the juicy red fruits into stable, dry coffee in the parchment. The basic method here is the same all over Kenya and will be familiar to anyone who has come across great Kenyan washed coffees. Cherries are delivered the same day they are picked, and from there coffee is first mechanically pulped, then density graded in water channels. The densest seeds are the most highly praised and are separated off and graded as P1, with lighter grades having successively less value. The seeds are then moved to fermentation tanks, where they are allowed to undergo controlled fermentation for around 24 hours. This process of gentle fermentation degrades the sticky mucilage surrounding the seed, which is then removed by washing in water channels, thus halting fermentation and allowing a further opportunity to remove floaters. The beans are then transferred to a soaking tank, where they undergo further chemical changes, developing amino acids over the next 24 hours. The coffee is then spread thinly and evenly on drying beds. Drying during Karumandi’s harvest season of October to January can take anywhere between 11 to 14 days. The aim is to reduce moisture content and water activity level of the coffee to a point where the coffee becomes stable over time. This requires further measures to ensure the drying is even and as slow as possible given the environmental conditions of the location as well as the available resources in terms of available area of drying surfaces. Special attention must be paid to the depth of the coffee, shade cover, as well as regular agitation of the coffee to control temperature and drying rate.
It is also worth noting that the land itself contributes greatly to the area’s capacity for great coffee. Situated just south of the Equator, at an elevation of between 1700 and 1800 meters above sea level, the climatic conditions of the area are favourable to growing coffee, despite the potential risk of drought throughout the central highlands. Coupled with the rich volcanic soil laid down over aeons of eruptions from the now extinct Mount Kenya just a few miles to the north it’s no surprise that our Karumandi is a beautiful example of what can be achieved with just the right conditions. Our roast profile on this coffee is intended to allow the characteristics imbued in the coffee by nature, farmer and processing to shine.