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Over the past few years, the Kenyan government has been loosening its grip on coffee exportation, and farmers are now able to make better returns through direct trade agreements. As a result, Kenyan cup quality is continuing to improve year after year. The Kenya Kiangoi is a great example of this pioneering movement.
The Kirinyaga district, where this coffee hails from, is renowned for its production of amazing coffees. Volcanic soils, high altitude, and ample rainfall make for the optimum growing conditions. Similarly, washing and drying processes, typical of the region, are consistent and reliable. The population in this area is predominantly made up of the Kikuyu people, where the population density is around 2000 persons per sq km. These small-scale farmers are organized into well-managed central pulperies (also called factories), where they produce around 362 tons of cherry per year.
Once picked, the cherries are soaked, washed, pulped and placed in a series of fermentation tanks for up to 36 hours with fresh river water from the near by Kambuku River and dried on raised beds. This gives the coffee a distinctive high acidity and fruit flavor. The coffee is then dried for five to ten days, before being transferred to the Kenya Kiangoi Factory, where it is rested and let to breathe fully. It is then sold to coffee brokers and roasters outside of Kenya’s auction system.
Kenya Kiangoi Factory is part of the Rungeto farmer’s co-op society. The factory came to exist when the Ngiriama co-op’s assets were liquidated.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Kenya Kiangoi AA, from Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters in Olympia, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Kirinyaga, Kenya
farm: Kenya Kiangoi Factory
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Rung’eto Cooperative
elevation: 1700 – 2000 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
Upon opening the bag, this Kenya Kiangoi has a massive aroma that booms out of the bag with authority. It’s sweet and fragrant, with scents of vanilla, brown sugar, red berries, and flora; but there are also touches of roast in the background that provide a bit of pungency to the aroma.
The flavor follows the nose, and my tongue is coated by a medium-bodied coffee (the fuller side of a medium body) with a heavy, creamy mouthfeel. This is a sweet coffee, with flavors of vanilla, sugar, and, when I say this coffee has a “heavy, creamy mouthfeel,” I’m also referring to the coffee’s heavy whipping cream flavor. Loads of fruits flourish throughout the cup, but particularly as the coffee cools—strawberry, black currant, sweet clementine, elderberry, raisin, plum, date, and a refreshing lime acidity. (All of these fruit flavors also bring a juiciness that, combined with the creaminess from the first few sips, is now making for a buoyant, supple mouthfeel.) A bouquet of black tea leaves, bergamot, lavender, and violet aromatics flutter through the finish.
Now, having said all that, this coffee is a very fully-developed one. I don’t want to say it’s over-roasted, because it’s not; even though the presence of roast never goes away (burnt sugars, roasted peanut shells, bitterness), it doesn’t overtake the coffee, either.
Medium body; supple mouthfeel; citric acidity; clean finish.
Overall, Batdorf and Bronson’s Kenya Kiangoi AA is a pretty good cup of coffee. Not a perfect cup, maybe not even a great one depending on your palate… But a pretty good one. Despite my criticisms, however, this was a coffee that I enjoyed having in my cup from day to day.
While it did possess a bit more roast than I like in a coffee (particularly in a coffee such as this one, specifically), it didn’t overtake the profile at all; instead, it acted more like a shadow—just an element that, from sip to sip, was always there. The roast also provided a stark contrast for the coffee’s bright and lively highlights to really shine—all of its juicy fruit elements.
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