Kenya AA Karatina Washing Station
About Kenya AA Karatina Washing Station
New crop coffee, arrived late August in vacuum sealed packages.
Karatina is a washing station in Nyeri, Central Kenya. This district is known for complex, flavorful coffees with intensity. Karatina is owned by the Barichu Cooperative, who operates three other washing stations: Karindundu, Gatomboya, and Gatuiri (we have offered coffee from that washing station in the past). Founded in 1957, the wetmill processes coffee cherries from about 1000 Coop members, most of whom are smallholder farmers with about 250 coffee trees. Farmers plant other crops in with the coffee trees, like macadamia, bananas, corn and beans. Being part of the Coop gives members access to financing for school fees, farm improvements and emergencies, as well as a plant nursery and a demo coffee plot.
Kenya has a unique double soak washing process. Washed coffee is distinguished by the clarity of the flavors and attributes that it can achieve. During this process, the sugars present in the mucilage are removed through natural fermentation or mechanical scrubbing. Fermentation can be done by stacking the coffee outside or placing them under water and allowing nature to take its course. After the sugars are removed, the beans then can be taken through a secondary washing to remove any additional debris, or taken immediately to the patios or beds for drying. During wet processing, the pulp is removed mechanically. The remaining mesocarp, called mucilage, sticks to the parchment and is also removed before drying. Mucilage is insoluble in water and clings to parchment too strongly to be removed by simple washing. Mucilage can be removed by fermentation followed by washing or by strong friction in machines called mucilage removers. The method and supervision of fermentation can make or break a coffee's final outcome. These coffee cherries were hand sorted by the farmers before they went into production. After their skins were removed the coffee was fermented for 24-36 hour under close shade the amount of which depends on climate temperatures. After fermentation the coffees are washed again, graded by density in washing channels and allowed to soak a second time, overnight in clean water. They are then placed on drying tables where they will be sun dried 12 to 20 days on African drying beds.
There are several varietals in this lot, notably SL28 and SL34. "SL" varieties, Bourbon derivatives, were developed decades ago by Scott Labs for the best flavors and are now being reproduced in areas around the world when conditions are right. Ruiru 11 and Batian are hybrids developed for their resistance to coffee diseases, and are regularly planted on coffee farms in Africa.
- Washing Station: Karatina
- Coffee Cooperative: Barichu FCS
- District: Nyeri
- Division: Mathira
- Altitude: 1700-1800 Meters above sea level
- Coffee Variety: Mostly SL28 and SL34, with some Ruiru 11 and Batian
- Processing: Washed
Cup Characteristics: Aromas of ripe berries, cane sugar, and black cherry. Flavors of dark chocolate and crisp apple. This Kenya is full bodied, bright, and snappy.
Roasting Notes: Beans are hard and dense and can be roasted to a variety of darkness levels. Most floral and delicate notes will be presented at City+ to FC range. The delicate nuances of this coffee will present themselves at lightly roasted levels but be sure to have a full first crack. Some may prefer to finish the roast at the first sound of second crack. Behmor users try P1 or P3, or, switch to manual and increase drum speed in the latter part of the roast.
Kenya coffee facts:
Population (2006): 34.7 million People
Coffee Production: 880,000 bags (60 kg)
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: 50,000 bags
Coffee Export: 850,000 bags
Cultivated Area: 127,000 Hectares (314,000 acres)
Harvests: 2 per year
- Main crop October to December
- Fly crop June to August
Arabica Introduced: Introduced from Ethiopia via Yemen at the end of the 19th century, by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit Congregation. Bourbon varietal introduced from Reunion in 1901 by missionaries. Kent varietal introduced early 20th century from the Indies.
Specialty Coffee Regions: North and northeast of Nairobi; high plateaus surrounding Mt. Kenya. Soil is volcanic.
Grades: AA Plus, AA, peaberry
Farms: About 350,000 farms with an average of 0.2 hectares (about 1/2 acre). 8 major preparation cooperatives.
Botanical Varietals: Bourbon, Kent, various hybrids (SL-28, SL-34, Riuru 11), Blue Mountain (from Jamaica).
One of the great coffee producers. Coffee accounts for 27% of the country's exports and half of their agricultural output. Shading, by banana trees, is a common practice.
Kenya has a weekly auction system that has been in place for many years. It does not provide transparency of revenues to growers and the system is said to be flawed by a complex web of middlemen. There are allegations of corruption as well. The government is working to develop a more direct model whereby growers can offer their coffees more directly to foreign buyers thus reaping a better price.