From the very beginnings of Friedhats we wanted to share the coffees’ from this country. With wild and punchy flavour notes like blackcurrant and blackberry, hibiscus and lime (we are not into the tomato flavours so much) they put a smile on our faces year after year.
It’s not been so easy for coffee farmers there though. Avocado trees are replacing low yielding coffee plants to make better and easier money and cartels are taking cuts leaving producers stuck in poverty.
We weren’t always so aware of this at Friedhats, but since 2019 we have decided to support Trabocca in their project with the smallholders of the Ndaroini washing station. You can read more about that here. And see the clip below!
In the meantime, here is a list of almost every coffee from that great land that we have ever had!
2022 - Ndunduri
We find it to be a lot harder to find really nice coffee from Kenya these days. This is due to climate change and political instability throughout the country. It can also be a little nostalgia on our part. Kenya will probably never be better than that first Kenyan Aeropress I tasted years ago. It tasted like blueberry jam. Literally (:
Like Bob Dylan said, times are A changin’, but with a bit more time and effort we managed to actually find a really nice lot from the Ndunduri washing station, so it all worked out in the end.
Ndunduri was built in the early 70s and it is located at the foot of Mount Kenya. There is good management and support from the farmers and staff. It is common to see other crops on the coffee farms like passion fruits, maize, beans, tea, even though farmers are monitored by the field committee not to intercrop. It’s a washed coffee located at 1600 masl and is made up of varieties SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 and Batian.
The result is a very sweet, juicy coffee with a lot of blue and red berries and even some floral notes.
2022 - Kii
Kii, is one of the more well known mills in Kenya, producing great coffees year after year. It is one of 3 mills owned by the Rungeto Farmers Coop Society, which has about 3507 members and is located in Ngairiama in the Gichugu division of the famous Kirinyaga district. The smallholders, which are usually a family group, grow coffee on their plots of about 1 hectare at between 1700 and 1900 masl and this lot is made up of the SL28 and 34 varieties. In the cup it is the typical blackcurrant notes with sweet fresh tomato consomme!
This coffee is handpicked by the smallholder and they deliver the cherry to the Kii Mill. Here it is depulped and the floaters are separated off in a water tank. Floaters, called ‘mbuni’ are unripe or immature beans. The depulped beans are then fermented for 24 hours and then washed and fermented again in tanks for 12-24 hours. The beans are then sent to washing channels where the mucilage is completely scrubbed off and any remaining floaters are removed. Finally the beans go through a soaking process in fresh water for up to 24 hours. This soaking is thought to contribute to the typical kenyan flavour profile as it ‘develops’ the proteins and amino acids in the bean.
The beans are dried on tables in thin layers for 6 hours and then a further 5-10 days in thicker layers. They are then delivered to private mills called bodegas to rest until it is shipped.
2021 - Tano Ndongo
Tana Ndongo (which translates as the small 5) is owned by 5 brothers - Francis, David, James, John and Joseph Muuru. Their farm and mill is located at 1820 masl in Gitwe village in Kiambu and they exclusively grow the SL28 variety for its outstanding flavour profile. It is as usual a washed process coffee where it is depulped and then sorted into 3 grades based on the bean density.
The coffee is dry fermented in large tanks for about 24 hours until the remaining mucilage is loose and then washed again in channels to remove the mucilage and sort the ‘floaters’ or underdeveloped light beans from the rest. The beans in their parchment are then fed into a soak tank filled with cold water for 24 hours. This is said to develop the amino acids in the beans and contribute to that Kenyan flavour profile that we love. Finally the parchment is dried on raised beds (for good airflow) in the sun for 11 - 14 days and rested for some weeks after that. What to expect in the cup? Thick body contrasting delicate notes of Hibiscus, rosehip and raspberry with a liquorice finish.
2021 - Gathatha
We were very excited to receive our first new harvest Kenya in 2021. Gathatha also known as Gachatha (there are multiple spellings) is a mill located in Nyeri county, on the slopes of the Aberdare Mountain Range in Karundu settlement. It is run by The Gachatha Farmers’ Co-operative Society Ltd., which was formed in 1963 and currently has 1345 members.
Being next to a national park, they take extra care to protect the indigenous trees that support the local bird population. This coffee is made up of SL28, Ruiru and Batian varieties grown at about 1807masl and kicks off the season with a punchy cola like acidity, blackcurrant and lime.
Ruiru variety is named after the station at Ruiru in Kenya where it was developed in the 70’s and then finally released in ‘86. It’s becoming more popular because of its resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Leaf Rust while producing a good cup profile due to a backcrossing with our friends SL 28 and 34. They are both so tasty that even Tim Wendelboe wants to grow them on his farm in Colombia.
Batian was created at the Coffee Research Station (CRS; now the Coffee Research Institute, CRI) located in Ruiru (yes that’s confusing) and was released in 2010. It’s a composite of 3 different pure line varietals, which were originally based upon crosses between SL28, SL34, Rume Sudan, N39, K7, SL4 and the Timor Hybrid.
2019 - 2020 - Ndaroini AA
Our second coffee from this wondrous land this season. Remarkably and completely coincidentally, it’s located not far from our last coffee from the Gichathaini mill and part of the same Gikanda co-operative. At 1800masl, the Ndaroini washing station, in partnership with Trabocca want to change the way Kenyan coffee is sold.
You will find notes of black currant and black tea with a citric acidity. But, this is not just about flavour, it’s about changing the way producers get paid, breaking the circle of debt.
2019 - Gichathaini
Kenya, we missed it so, but our first coffee from the new harvest is in. This one is from the Gichathaini factory in the Mathira district of the famous Nyeri region. It is the product of about 770 farmers picking SL-28, SL-34, Batiana and Ruiru 11 varieties from their lots at around 1600 - 1900 masl. It puts the punch in punchy and brightness into your mouth with intense notes of blackcurrant and hibiscus.
2019 - Guama PB
We’ve had a coffee from the Guama factory in Kirinyaga before, but not the Peaberry version! Grown between 1500 and 1650 masl this coffee is juicy, sweet, full of blueberry and raspberry and of course bright like a coffee from Kenya should be.
As usual this is a washed process and made up of the SL 28 and SL 34 Varieties, although its a screen size PB. This stands for Peaberry, a mutation where the cherry forms one small bean inside instead of two. When there are two beans they push against each other and make a flat edge, which is the traditional coffee bean shape we know and love. The peaberry is all alone and so becomes round like a pea, hence the name!
The peaberry grade does not mean that it’s necessarily better or worse than the bigger AA’s or AB’s it’s just different :-)
Guama factory is part of the Baragwi Co-op and is made up of about 1271 small holders from around Kianyaga town. This co-op is quite big with around 12,000 members and 12 washing stations under its roof.
2018 - AB Karimikui #097
Our second coffee from Kenya this season and its bangin!
You may have seen this coffee around a bit, it’s been a popular kid on the block this season and theres good reason - it’s lovely.
Its from the Karimikui factory or wet mill as they are also known, established in 1966 in the also well known Kirinyaga region, where tea is more widely grown than coffee. The coffee grows at around the 1650 masl mark and about 600 farmers from the area contribute to this factory! It’s part of the Rungeto Farmers Cooperative Society who are also responsible for other big name factories like Kii for example
Kenya in general produces mainly washed coffees, where the cherries are ‘dry’ fermented then washed and graded before being dried on raised beds (for good airflow). The AB is simply a code for the bean size, which the coffee is also graded in - AA is bigger than AB just fyi.
As always, its mainly SL28 SL34 variety but some other lesser known varieties like K7, Ruiru 11 and Batian sneak in unnoticed.
Farmers in Kenya still struggle to make a living from coffee and there has been word lately of trees being ripped out and replaced by Avocado plants or apartment blocks as the cities grow. We can only hope we can help make coffee more viable for farmers so that it doen’t disappear completely! Thats maybe a bit dramatic, but enjoy this coffee. Savour it and think about how lucky you are ;-)
This ones typical Kenya - Jammy blackberry and red currant and a little hibiscus too.
2017 - Boma AB
New, fresh harvest Kenya has arrived! After a few years of ups and downs, Kenya had a more stable harvest this year. That means that, despite the terrible floods there are lots of coffees to pick from and they are great too!
As you probably know we always have Kenya on offer (apart from the last 3 weeks when we ran out), because we love how jammed packed it is with fantastically fragrant fruity flavour! And the many f’s don’t do it justice.
This time we went for a very clean coffee. Balanced, with pleasant acidity, beautiful florals and of course great blueberry and blackcurrant sweetness!
The coffee grows at an altitude of 1710 meters above sea level and is processed at the Boma washing station, which has about 600 members - mostly woman.
It’s located in the Kericho region and is surrounded by tea plantations. Kericho Gold - for the tea drinkers.
It’s a washed coffee, sun dried on raised meshed drying beds. Brew a nice cup, open the doors to your backyard or balcony, and then enjoy this coffee.
Take a second and don’t think about anything else.
If you don’t have a backyard of balcony: close your eyes and put “sounds of the rainforest vol.2” on. That will also do the trick.
2017 - Guama
It’s new, fresh and another great Kenyan coffee. This time from the Kirinyaga region. Guama factory or washing station is the collection point for around 1400 farmers, with farms ranging from 1500 - 1650 masl.
The cherries are brought in to the factory daily and then are quality checked, graded and separated. This is all in the name of better quality through more consistent bean size and ripeness.
The cherries are washed and pulped and for the next 3 weeks and are dried in the sun. The staff cover the cherries with plastic sheets everyday before sunrise to protect against the morning dew and during the day with shade nets if it gets too hot.
This is the kind of dedication that produces great coffee. Surprise, surprise its another coffee of the SL28/SL34 variety. We just can’t get enough! There are believe it or not other varieties that grow in Kenya, but nothing has quite the same ring to it or can yet beat the flavour of SL28/SL34.
In your cup is a bonanza of bursting black berries and blueberries. No, but seriously, it’s quite a ride.
2017 - Gathaithi
This year, there were some rumors about the Kenya harvest, which was a lot smaller and a little more expensive. Luckily though there are still great coffee’s coming from Kenya! We cupped quite a few samples this time before we were able to decide which one to buy.
Like our previous Kenya, this too is from the Nyeri region and also from the SL28/34 variety.
It’s grown on volcanic steep slopes at 1800 meters above sea level and produced by about 800 smallholders each with some 100 coffee trees. After picking, the skin and pulp is removed and the coffee in fermented for 16-24 hours. After this the coffee is washed and soaked in clean water for 16-18 hours before it’s sun dried on raised african drying beds. The grade is AB which refers to the bean size and is a little smaller than the AA grade we had last time.
This coffee has a very clean and delicate cup profile, with beautiful floral sweetness, bright acidity, creamy mouthfeel and notes of blackberry.