We like to explore all avenues of potential tastiness with our coffees, test roasting them numerous times before they ever see time on bar. Sometimes during this process we discover a coffee we bought intended for filter makes an astounding espresso, or vice versa, and so it has happened with the Kabingara AA purchased from the Karithathi Farmers Co-operative Society in Kirinyaga, Kenya.
Having already been released as a filter coffee, we chose to offer the Kabingara AA to a handful of our most loyal wholesale customers to run as their main espresso for a few weeks. By developing the Kabingara further through a longer contact time in the drum, around 11m20s rather than the 9m10s filter roast, however with an end temperature that's actually lower, the raspberry notes have become more prevalent and the finish is reminiscent of black cherries and vanilla. It also handily serves as a little precursor to the Githiga AB Espresso which is launching on general release soon!
With only a limited amount of the Kabingara AA available, we decided it would only be offered at our Clerkenwell cafe and the list of customers below. So, for only a short amount of time, you'll be able to try this delicious Kenyan Espresso at these locations for the next few weeks.
Excitingly, this also includes Association Coffee's new shop on Ludgate Hill if you needed another reason to go visit Sam and Christian in their opening few weeks!
No. 10/12 Creechurch Lane London EC3A 5AY
Unit 3, 56 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7AW
3C York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EB
36 Camberwell Church St, London, SE5 8QZ
2 Rookery Road, Clapham Common, London, SW4 9DD
As Summer gives way to the Autumn we’re entering the end of Kenyan coffee season. To round off what has been a great year of Kenyan coffees for us we’ve just released Gachatha AA and Githiga AB.
Gachatha AA from the Gachatha Farmers Co-Op Society, is the first Nyeri region coffee we've bought since the Gathaithi PB of early 2014. The situation in Nyeri is no longer as frustrating as before, meaning traceable, high quality green coffee can once again be brought out of the region while it is still fresh and full of life. This coffee is a stunning example of the flavourful coffees that come from Nyeri, with a clean tropical character that we haven’t experienced in a Kenyan coffee for some time. It’s just launched on all of our bars as well, being brewed on AeroPress; it really is a treat in the cup!
Alongside the Gachatha AA is a new Githiga AB lot from the 16th week of production at the factory this season, and is the third time we've released a coffee from the Kanyenya-ini Farmers Co-Op Society in Murang’a. The factory is located on the slopes of Mt. Kenya near the town of Kangema, with cherries coming from 980 member farmers. The last two coffees we bought from Githiga have both been AA grades, which are a slightly larger screen size than the AB grade here. Compared to the tart red fruit flavours found in the AA counterpart, this AB lot has a more rounded acidity, reminiscent of forest fruits and black grapes.
The Githiga AB is currently available as a filter coffee, though will shortly be making an appearance as espresso in the next month or so. We’re certain you’ll enjoy it both ways!
Back in December last year, the coffee-buying world became aware of a political situation developing in the Nyeri region of Kenya that indicated this region’s coffee would not be for sale this season. We kept an eye on things as best we could from London, and then traveled to Kenya in February/March to speak with those involved on the ground to get a sense of whether anything could be done in time to bring the co-operative societies’ coffees to market.
Unfortunately, there had been little to no improvement and most of the coffees from the washing stations we were interested in were sitting in a warehouse; lots all mixed up, traceability questionable, but most importantly under lock-and-key, not even available for tasting.
So, instead we looked further afield. While each year we travel to places like Kenya in order to taste through hundreds of samples for prospective purchase, this year’s buying in Nairobi was particularly tricky. First off, we needed to widen the spectrum of coffees for potential inclusion dramatically, beyond Nyeri and Kirinyaga that we normally purchase from, to Murang’a, Thika and Kiambu.
While a grueling and challenging prospect - several consecutive days of little more than cupping, note-taking and decision making - the process was significantly more rewarding than we had expected. Countless lots across a variety of grades from these ‘inferior’ regions truly sparkled, showing depth, character and playfulness that in previous years we may have skimmed over. We spent a lot of time referring back to our copy of the Kenya Coffee Directory, looking up the location and co-operative structures of washing stations we’d never heard of before.
What we anticipated to be a buying season in which finding enough coffee of a quality level we expect from our Kenya offering, ended up being the usual difficult process of narrowing the field of extremely worthy contenders down to the handful of lots we can responsibly purchase. And it seems we weren’t alone in this approximation of things.
Purchasing is usually competitive, with every coffee buyer doing their best to secure for their customers what they see as the greatest coffees of that season, but this year seemed especially so. This, combined with the fact that the Nyeri coffees were held back, meant that prices were more aggressive than last year - a fact reflected in the retail price of our bags - but we find it hard to begrudge the co-operative societies trying to do the best they can for the farmers they represent, and we agreed to pay.
We’re extremely happy with the coffees that we have managed to secure from Kenya this year, including the return of Kabingara AA; a top grade selection from the Kirinyaga region that we adored last year. But a small part of us has to wonder — If the coffees from neighbouring regions are this delicious, just what did those top Nyeri lots taste like?
Coffee lovers in the UK are a lucky bunch. A recent upswell in the appreciation of great coffee, all around the country, means that there’s never been a better time to order a cup.
The press, blogs and social media all abound with stories of the latest cafes, roasters and, more recently, baristas who are putting energy and resource into improving this widely loved drink, celebrating them as talented harbingers of quality. And it’s true. A lot of work is required to take what is basically a handful of dried legumes, and turn them into a drink that warrants crossing town to taste.
But that quality that coffee lovers seek starts long before any roaster or barista is in the picture. The complexity, clarity and character of flavour that we now expect from roasters and cafes is not the product of the cleverest roasting, the fanciest espresso machine, or even the most ironically mustachioed barista.
Though many of us fail to appreciate it, the quality of what we look for in our daily coffee is established long before the beans arrive in Europe. It’s high time to remind ourselves that the coffee we love began the journey to us a long way away, as the seeds of a single ripe cherry, grown on a healthy coffee tree.
Just as we appreciate that the world’s best chefs are at the mercy of the producers that supply them, so too are roasters and baristas only capable of producing roasts and drinks of a quality befitting their ever-increasing price tag because of the care and diligent work of the world’s best coffee growers.
Coffee is a fickle and fragile fruit. As a tree, it’s susceptible to a wide range of diseases and attacks that can decimate crops: leaf rust, insect infestation and snap frosts to name just a few. During its preparation for export, if not dried correctly, coffee runs the risk of beginning to ferment and rot, resulting in a tainted and unsaleable product. Once dried and sitting in warehouses or on ships, the raw beans undergo organic degradation, turning woody, dry and stale. Even if all these risks are avoided, there’s still a chance that bandits will cut through warehouse locks, or hijack road transportation, and make off with a farmer’s entire year’s work.
Coffee production is hard and risky work, but it needn’t be thankless, too. In reality, it’s thanks to committed growers, millers and exporters that we as roasters and baristas have the opportunity to put that ever increasingly delicious coffee into your cup.
While it’s certainly true that the skill of baristas, and the quality of coffee being served has never been better, it’s important that as coffee lovers think beyond the barista, and give some thought to those responsible for growing our coffee.
When our freshly harvested lots arrive from Kenya and Ethiopia in a few weeks time, I’ll be reminding our baristas of my recent travels to farms there, and all the people that I met. And when customers thank our baristas for the great coffee they serve, I trust that they’ll remain humble and deferential, because we don’t magic up the quality in the customer’s drink, we’re merely a conduit that helps to maintain it from farm to cup.
Director of Operations
We’re very pleased to introduce a couple of new coffee offerings to the range. First up, the Kabingara AA from Kiringaya, Kenya. This coffee was harvested in December 2012 and kept in parchment right up to being dry milled and then immediately vacuum-sealed into 15kg bricks for shipping. These efforts have enabled the coffee to maintain a fresh and lively character, with superb aromatics and real clarity of flavour.
You’ll experience some classic Kenyan traits like a winey, blackcurrant acidity and a full, juicy body. Also, there are some wonderful rose hip aromatics that really fill out the cup.
Next up we have v.14 of the beloved Cult of Done Espresso. As with the La Ilusion, which made up 100% of v.13, we felt this coffee benefited from remaining unblended. That’s right, the Hunkute from Sidamo, Ethiopia needs no helping hand in creating a full, rich, aromatic espresso. We’ve really enjoyed having the Hunkute as a filter option, and after hitting upon the right roast profile, we’ve fallen in love with it all over again.
As an espresso you can expect some real honeyed sweetness with incredible floral aromatics! This coffee is surprisingly forgiving, and tastes treacly and wonderfully textural in a tighter, punchier shot. It then becomes incredibly elegant, silky and balanced when pulled slightly longer. In milk you’ll experience flavours of apricot jam, producing a very decadent cappuccino.
Another coffee that we're very proud to be showcasing this year, and one that is really standing out on cupping tables and domestic kitchen benches alike, is the Gichathaini AA, Kenya. Again, we were fortunate enough to visit the Gichathaini factory a few months ago, not only to look at the facilities for coffee production, but to sit down with the managers of the co-operative society that runs the factory and to talk about what our coffee purchases mean to them.
In addition, we were shown through an on-site nursery, growing a range of coffee varieties; from the more usual SL-28 and SL-34, right through to newer, experimental varieties such as Batian -- a more disease and drought resistant cultivar. These seedlings will be nurtured here until they're ready to be sold on to the co-operative member farmers at a heavily subsidised price.
Gichathaini has produced consistently excellent coffee for many years now, and as a result, it's a name that crops up on the offer sheets of great roasters all around the world. While often we're hoping to carry coffees that people are less familiar with, the bright, super-sweet rhubarb characteristics evident in this particular lot meant it was a coffee we couldn't pass up.
We're currently serving this coffee on Aeropress, and have retail bags available in both our stores, as well as online at in our Dispensary. Don't miss out.
This is a coffee we're really excited about.
Over the last couple of months, we've spent a good amount of time in Africa, travelling between Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda visiting producers, millers and exporters, to get more of an understanding about the challenges and opportunities inherit to a producing part of the world we're huge fans of.
In February we went to Thunguri - a wet mill (or 'factory'), where coffee farmers in the neighbouring area bring ripe cherries for processing into the raw, green beans for us to purchase. Located in Nyeri, Kenya, and owned by the Rumukia Co-operative Society, Thunguri is a staggeringly beautiful place to visit, surrounded by agriculturally subdivided hillsides, where macadamia nuts drop from the trees, ready for cracking between two rocks, and immediate consumption.
Back in Nairobi some days later, we tasted through a number of different lots, looking for one that stood out as our favourite. We chose CK170202; a code meaning that the coffee was sent to Central Kenya Coffee Mills (CK), in the seventeenth week of the season (17) on truck number 0202. After dry milling and vacuum sealing into 15kg bricks for transit, the coffee was ready to be moved to Mombassa by truck, and shipped to us in London, via Oslo.
And that's the coffee that we're excited to share with you now: Thunguri AA -- a wonderfully sweet, full and complex coffee, with a candy-like, sugary blackberry sweetness, and a defining stone fruit acidity. Available in both of our stores now, or delivered to your home or office via our Dispensary, there's limited stocks so don't miss out.