Located in the Nyeri district, in the southern foothills of Mount Kenya and managed by the Rumukia Farmer’s Cooperative Society (FCS), Kiawamururu receives coffee cherry from nearly 550 smallholder coffee farmers. Each cooperative member tends about two hundred coffee shrubs producing SL28 and SL34 varieties, native Kenyan cultivars celebrated for their complex aromatics and flavors.
Farmers deliver their fresh-picked coffee cherry to the Kiawamururu mill where the cherries are weighed, carefully hand-sorted, and pulped within hours of harvest. Fresh water used in the pulping machines comes, via a channel system, from the nearby Ragati River and is conserved and re-circulated during processing. After the coffee has been pulped and washed, it is evenly spread on raised drying beds, where the parchment is worked and turned continuously to ensure even drying.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Kenya Kiawamururu, from Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters in Calgary. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri, Kenya
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Rumukia Farmers Cooperative Society
elevation: 1500 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The Kenya Kiawamururu’s aroma is sweet and clean, bright but refined – complex, even. The “color” of it is overwhelmingly purple, with scents of dark red wine, grapes, plum, raisin, and African violet.
As I take my first few sips of this coffee, I am immediately struck by how dynamic and complex this coffee is (and I can already tell that it’s only going to become more intense as I go deeper and deeper into the cup). Up front there is a very faint taste of dark chocolate, but my palate is more taken with the full-bodied and velvety cabernet sauvignon (particularly tastes of tannins that seem to prick the sides of the tongue). There’s also somewhat of a tart candied sweetness to the coffee with notes of citrus spice drops, crystallized sugar, black currant, blackberry, and raisin.
As it cools off, the cup explodes with liveliness and juicy fruits – guava, star fruit, plum, apricot, clementine, nectarine, peaches (and cream, which is in correlation to something of a creamy texture that the coffee has taken at this point), licorice, black grape, and a tart pluot acidity that streaks down the middle of the tongue before crashing into the back of the throat.
What’s throwing me for a loop, though, are these really complex flavors of star anise and oak cask (wine barrel) that leave behind a very slight astringency in the finish.
Full body; velvety mouthfeel; pluot acidity; slightly dry finish.
the bottom line:
Phil and Sebastian’s Kenya Kiawamururu is in an echelon of coffee unto itself – there is none other quite like it. A completely and utterly singular coffee that requires a myriad of qualifiers and intensifiers and exclamation points to accurately summate it (i.e., “Kenyan coffees are oftentimes unique, but this coffee is crazy unique even for a Kenya!”).
Yes, describing this coffee will turn any writer’s copy into an editor’s worst nightmare.
While the Kiawamururu is dense, deep, and intricately layered, it is also wild, unrestrained, and sharp; however, from beginning to end, it manages to maintain its clarity and, more importantly, its balance. There are aspects of it that have unrefined edges and come to a point (the sharp acidity and bright fruits), there are aspects of it that are gritty and chewy (the tannins and the wood), and there are aspects of it that are smooth and refined (the supple and velvety texture and juicy, fleshy fruits).
All coffees are different, but there are none that come to mind that even compare to the Kiawamururu.
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