About Kenya AA Kamwangi microlot
Latest arrival March 2020 in vacuum packages.
For years we have had a particularly good relationship with one of Kenya's top coffee exporters and each season we evaluate many top lots of coffee. In particular, some of these lots were acquired through the Kenya auction system. In Kenya there are private, regional factories, called washing stations in other African coffee producing nations. Coffee from area farms are processed - beginning with coffee cherries and resulting in coffee beans that can be roasted - in these factories. Some of the best coffee, like this one, is separated and sold in private lots or auctioned, while the remainder is sold in large bulk quantities. Kenya has some of the highest quality in the world and some of these small lots represent not only excellent quality, but a good value too. This is our second Kenya lot of the season; our first was Kabingara which was a smaller lot and it is now sold out. This is Kamwangi and we expect to have it available for a longer period and it was, in fact, our top pick for the season. Both of this season's coffees derive from the same county.
Kamwangi is one of two factories run by New Ngariama Cooperative Society in Kirinyaga county. Kirinyaga is located on the slopes of Mount Kenya and is world renowned for its amazing coffee quality. Kamwangi was established in 1983 and grows the varietals SL28, SL34 with small amounts of Batian and Ruiru 11. The immediate area sits on red-volcanic soil that infuses the with all the mineral and organic elements required for optimum production.
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. The region has deep, fertile well drained red volcanic soils which are ideal for coffee production though many of the area farmers grow tea.
- Farm Name: Kamwangi Coffee Factory
- County: Kirinyaga County
- Coffee Varieties: SL 28, SL 34, Ruiru 11, Batian
- Average farm size: 1/2 acre with 300 trees
- Flower season: March-April and September- October
- Harvest season: May- June and November- December
- Altitude: up to 1,800 meters above sea level
- Soil: Red volcanic soils
- Processing Method: Fully washed
- Membership: 1,500 cooperative smallholder members
Cup Characteristics: Another big, juicy and complex cup with lots of body and bright notes for liveliness. Like other top Kenya lots, this is a sophisticated cup of coffee with floral aromas, hints of blackcurrant and cassis. Tart, tannic stone fruit finish. Our top pick for the season.
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.