Despite grower discontent and urban encroachment on prime coffee lands, Kenya continues to produce some of the world’s most elegant and distinctive coffees.
The sample that Halfwit Coffee recently sent me hails from Mchana Estate, which is located in Ruiru—a village in the Kiambu county of central Kenya.
Owned by KOFINAF Company Limited, Mchana Estate is the largest single coffee plantation in all of Kenya. It was actually the first to be acquired by a French group (Socfinaf) looking for agricultural investments in East Africa in 1950 after World War II.
Mchana Estate is very active in providing for their farmers and their families and even, to a certain extent, the surrounding community.
The Estate has a well equipped and stocked dispensary with a qualified resident Nurse, where employees and their dependants enjoy free medical treatment. The Estate has provided a school where workers dependents and children from the surrounding community go to learn. It has two day care centres and a nursery with a free feeding program where workers’ pre–school-aged children are taken care of.
Even a social hall is provided where workers can go to entertain themselves.
The community benefits from the abundance of grass and other types of fodder for their livestock which is sold to them cheaply, and the the estate’s coffee nursery is set to start providing planting material to interested coffee farmers. The Estate has sponsored projects such as a school where even children from surrounding community learn. A toilet block in the school was recently put up at the expense of the Mchana Estate.
Interestingly enough, Mchana Estate is actively involved in education and outreach (presumably) as it has been prominently featured in at least two academic studies through Kenyatta University.
Cecilia Wangari Ng’ang’a performed some linguistic studies at the Mchana Estate. Her abstract can be found here. Also, Dr. Regina G.M. Karega wrote a thesis centered around violence against women in the Kenyan workplace and the Mchana Estate is featured in a section called “The Coffee Sector.” That thesis can be found here—it’s an interesting read on a subject that I don’t think receives much press.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re drinking the Kenya Mchana, from Halfwit Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Ruiru, Kiambu, Kenya
farm: Mchana Estate
producer: estate farmers
association: KOFINAF Company Limited
elevation: 1766 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34, K7, R11
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, National Environmental Management Authority
The aroma of the Kenya Mchana is absolutely stunning. It is rich and supple with beautiful mixed berries, cocoa, honey, and violet.
Immediately post-brew, this coffee gets right into it. It is full-bodied and beautifully rounded with a supple dry red wine mouthfeel. Raw cocoa nibs blend with syrupy molasses, before erupting all over the palate with absolutely succulent notes of tart blackberry, plum, raisin, cranberry, blueberry, apricot, black grape, cherry, black currant, watermelon, lemon, roasted cocoa, and a honeycrisp apple acidity that simply sparkles as it rounds out the bottom of the cup.
Normally, at this point, I would write “as it cools, the cup changes into _________”. This coffee, however, stays the same. Which is as remarkable as it is rewarding, as it settles into a long, lasting finish.
Full body; winey mouthfeel; malic acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If there were ever a coffee that is worthy of the term “elegant,” this, the Kenya Mchana, from Halfwit Coffee Roasters, is it.
Specialty coffee has been trying for years to convince the general public that it’s as much a gourmet/culinary beverage as fine wines are; that an experienced coffee cupper has just as much right to be considered a true “sommelier” as a trained wine enthusiast. The Kenya Mchana is a coffee that, I think, absolutely proves it.
This coffee tastes like it’s fresh out of the vineyeard, like a dry red wine—like a Merlot—, with its flavors of slightly astringent and sweet/tart/malic fruits. Supple, elegant, beautiful.
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