Each year we cup a good many Kenyan auction lots, choosing the best and brightest to represent our highest grade offering of this East African classic. Our Kenya AA Select+ is cooperatively produced by a number of small farm holders in the central Kenyan farmlands surrounding Mt. Kenya. The individual lots are consolidated at the local mill where they undergo a stringent double fermentation method, sometimes referred to as ‘Kenyan Process,’ that accentuates its complexity. The Kenya AA Select+ parchment is sun dried on raised beds and transported to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange where it is graded for bean size, cupped for quality and ultimately sold at auction. This lot of Kenya AA Select+ is the highest grade of Kenyan coffee (17/18 screen or AA). In the cup it has very good acidity, a silky body, strong notes of apricot, stone fruit, citrus and currant.
Kenya has long been established as leader in high-grade East African arabica. With regards to acidity and brightness, Kenya is widely recognized as the bar—its best lots are famed for their fruity, clean, complex profiles, offering balance and pronounced tasting notes of everything from berries and stone fruit to sweet citrus, rightly fetching a handsome auction price. The Nairobi Coffee Exchange auctions are a quality based payment system that functions as the nerve center of a well oiled industry built upon decades of lab-based agri-research, applied farming and a strong network of cooperatives. At the exchanges small farmers can access a wide range of international buyers who outbid one another for the perfect cup. Truth be told, Kenya’s growers are owed much of today’s industry praise; for generations they have pushed the envelope and tested the limits of farming and processing capabilities in order to embrace advances in growing science. The main growing regions extend from the 17,000 foot, central peak of Mount Kenya all the way to the outskirts of the capital city of Nairobi to the south. Another portion of arabica farmlands lie on the slopes of Mt. Elgon, against Kenya’s western border with Uganda.
The ‘Kenyan Process’ double fermentation method requires pulped cherries be twice soaked for 12 to 24 hours in fermentation tanks with additional rinsing in between. When finished the beans are separated by density by way of a water channel, removing the less dense “floaters”. The beans then undergo one final soak to reportedly promote healthy amino and fatty acid structures. Next the beans are sun-dried on raised beds under strict supervision for approximately 1 to 2 weeks until their moisture is reduced to 11–12%.
Today’s specialty industry is built on the extensive work of Scott Laboratories who developed today’s well known SL28 and SL34 varietals that are widely used throughout Kenya and many other East African coffee producing nations. From 1934 to 1963 Scott Laboratories hybridized heirloom Mokka (Yemeni Typica) and Bourbon to produce more drought and rust resistant arabica strains. To this day the Scott Labs hybrids are favored over more recent, modern rust-resistant varietals like Ruiru-11 and Batian, which are not favored by specialty purveyors due to their lack of complexity compared to the traditional crop of SL. Going back even further to the 1890’s French missionaries first introduced arabica to Tanzania shortly before migrating it north to Kenya. Around the same time (1893) Scottish missionaries introduced the Mokka varietals to Kenya as well, where over time they came to be respectively known as the ‘French Mission’ and ‘Scottish Mission’ varietals.
|Producer:||Small Farm Holders|
|Region:||Mt. Kenya, Central Kenya|
|Variety:||Mix of Varietals|
|Processing:||Washed, and then sun dried|
|Altitude:||4,600 – 6,500 ft (1400 - 2000m)|
|Harvest:||February ‐ March and November ‐ December|