About the coffee
Flavour description: An acidity-driven, juicy cup of coffee. Flavour notes of strawberry lemonade and pink grapefruit, and typical - but more rare now a days - a hint of black currant. It leaves you with a long-lasting cooling and refreshing aftertaste
Producer: Kamwangi Factory
Location: Gichugu division of the Kirinyaga district
Varietal: SL-34, SL-28 and Ruiru 11
Harvested: October 2018 to December 2018
Cooperative: New Ngariama Cooperative Society
Altitude: 1600-1800 masl
Soil: Mainly Nitisol, red volcanic soil. Nitisols occur in highlands and on volcanic steep slopes. They are developed from volcanic rocks and have better chemical and physical properties than other tropical soils.
Processing: Fully washed. Fermented on 24-36 hours. Dried on raised beds for 15-21 days.
Roast style: Light to medium to enhance the bright natural flavour of the coffee.
About the coffee
This is the second release of Kamwangi for the season, this time the slightly sweeter AB. Kenya is one of Drop Coffee’s top-favourite taste profiles in coffee.
If you haven’t tried a Kenyan coffee yet - this will open up your world for what coffee can taste like.
If you have tried Kenyan coffee, but you’re reading this, it probably means that you really love it too. The typical taste profile of a great Kenyan coffee has no likeness in other growing regions, particularly when it comes to the most unique attributes, such as crisp clear acidity and the notes of blackcurrants and rhubarb.
Kenya is one of the origins that we have been buying coffee from ever since the company’s early days. We have been a loyal buyer of this coffee from Kamwangi, for six years now, and want to continue so. As every year, we will have two different bean sizes of the coffee; this is the AB, the second biggest sized bean of dozens of screen sizes. In the past, the size of the bean used to be an indicator of the quality of coffee in Kenya, the bigger the better. But today it is merely a distinction of character, where the AB is slightly sweeter than the AA, which we had as our Celebration Coffee in 2019.
Kamwangi factory is one of two factories (in Kenya the processing stations are called factories) under the cooperative named New Ngariama Cooperative Society. Kamwangi is located in the region of Kirinyaga in the hills surrounding mount Kenya, with a third factory soon to become operational. This area is less known than its neighbour, Nyeri.
The New Ngariama Cooperative Society is mainly made up of small scale farmers from surrounding farms to Kamwangi Factory. They are delivering their coffee cherries here in the afternoons of the day that the cherries have been picked. The smallholding farmers are normally delivering about 25-50 kilo by foot or bike for a few kilometers. When arriving at the factory, each producer will sort their own cherries manually to separate defects and lower grade, since they are paid more in relation to quality. These qualities are weighed, logged and paid for, and the farmers are given a receipt. Each farmer delivering coffee to the factory, has about 100 trees on their farms. One coffee tree gives cherries that end up being approximately 350 grams of roasted coffee.
Part of what makes the Kenyan taste profile so unique is achieved through the highly controlled way it is sorted and processed. Rigorous sorting is done at each stage of the processing, creating an extremely consistent final product. Once the cherries are delivered to the factory and have been sorted for over and under ripe cherries, they are generally de-pulped directly by a large 4-disked pulper, which removes the cherry from the coffee bean.
This pulper also acts as the next stage of sorting, as the low density beans float to the top of water channels after the pulp is removed and are washed down into a separate fermentation tank from the denser, higher quality beans. Once they are de-pulped, they are fermented in large concrete tanks overnight, breaking down the sugary layer (mucilage) so that it may easily be removed during the washing process. Fermentation takes about 24-36 hours, depending on the temperature.
The factory manager checks if the coffee has finished fermented by rubbing it between their hands: if there is abrasion, then the mucilage has deteriorated sufficiently and the coffee may be washed further, along the line to the washing channels. If it is allowed to ferment further, the delicate flavour characteristics would be ruined so washing must occur at a very particular time in order to stop the fermentation process.
The coffee is washed in fresh water in order to remove the residual sugars of the mucilage and is then sorted by density. Lower density beans are once again separated to be sold as lower grade coffee whilst the higher density beans are held back by gates in the channels whilst workers sweep along the channels with paddles in order to move the coffee. Once the washing process is complete, the coffee is moved to drying beds in order to lower the moisture content to a stable level before storage.
During the warmest hours of the day the coffee is covered to protect the beans from too much sunshine (that can damage the beans) and to keep the drying time longer. If the drying beds are full, the higher grade coffee is often stored overnight in tanks of clean water to prevent any further fermentation whilst awaiting to be moved to the drying tables. On the drying tables the coffee is sorted and stirred by hand in order to ensure even drying, until the moisture content reaches 13% then it is moved to conditioned bins for storage where they lose about 1.5% more. The beans are graded after bean size where AA is screen 17/18. AB is screen 15/16 with a tolerance for 10% below screen 15.
The past few years Kenya’s coffee production has been struggling a lot with coffee berry disease (CBD) and tough weather conditions due to climate change. This has led to more people planting the variety Batian which is more resistant than SL28 and SL34. However, the Batian plant is not always as high in acidity or as intense as the Kenyan coffee we have had the last decade, and that Kenyan coffee has been known for.
Kamwangi gives a direct part-payment to the farmers upon delivery. After the coffee is sold and the cooperative has taken out the production cost, the farmers get a second payment. Some well-managed wet mills are able to give more than 85% of the sales price back to the farmers; Kamwangi was able to give back 80% in 2017 after cost of milling and marketing is deducted. Registered in 1997, Kamwangi is Rainforest Alliance certified and have a good structure for tracking payments to the farmers, which is maybe the most important sustainability issue in coffee production in Kenya in general.
Kamwangi also have established soaking pits for waste water treatment as well as traceable quality control systems for processing.
As a part of our transparacy we have started to share what we are paying for all of the coffees going out of Drop Coffee's Roastery. You can read more about it in this blogpost. For Kamwangi AB the FOB price for this lot was 3.74 USD per pound.