Summertime, and the brewin’s easy. Our third installment of our Africa series features a vibrant Kenyan coffee that is grown on the southern slope of the second tallest mountain in Kenya (Mount Kenya). Our Mount Kenya coffee displays a sweet and refreshing acidity that reminds me of lemon candy. The perfect coffee for those who love a fruit-forward light roast.
Malawi and Burundi, the previous installments in the series, were perfect for our focus on Africa because they’re off the radar for most coffee drinkers and they’ve had exceptional harvests in 2018. Kenya, on the other hand, is seen as an African coffee powerhouse second only to Ethiopia (depending on who you ask). Although you may already recognize Kenya from a million coffee bags, I feel like this is a great opportunity to examine exactly why Kenyan coffee is so great and of course to drink some of my favorite coffee.
Despite its close proximity to Ethiopia, the coffee grown in Kenya is believed to originate from Reunion island in the Indian ocean. These Bourbon variety plants were transplanted to Ethiopia by Christian missionaries around the turn off the 20th century. In the following 100 years the farms in Kenya eventually became dominated by cultivars. Cultivars are plants that are created by purposefully breeding different coffee varieties to achieve a desired characteristic. Our coffee from the slopes of Mount Kenya is the product of several cultivars including two created by Scott Labs in the 1930’s (SL28 and SL24) and a third called Ruiru 11. This third cultivar is named for the Kenyan town where it was created.
The unique genetic history of Kenyan coffee is only a small part of the reason why Kenyan coffee tastes so great. The effect of Kenyan soil, altitude, and climate cannot be underestimated. Mount Kenya itself is the heart of coffee growing in Kenya and possesses rich volcanic soil with a high level of acidity that is believed to influence cherry growth. The mountain is also located only 10 miles from the equator which creates a coffee habitat with consistent sunlight year-round. The elevation on the mountain limits humidity and creates a large fluctuation between night and day temperatures. Summer conditions during the day bathe the plant in heat while the cold nights cause the plant to channel additional sugars to the cherry.
Mount Kenya turns out to be a one in a million environment for coffee plants. Kenyan farmers are able to take full advantage of this magic coffee mountain to create some of the sweetest, brightest, and most complex coffees in the world. I’ve been dreaming of this coffee ever since I tried the sample from origin in April and I’m incredibly excited to finally get it in the roaster.
Written by our head Workshop Roaster, Hugh Morretta