Oliver Strand recently gave an incredible interview to Narrative.ly, entitled “The Coffee Chronicler,” in which he discusses the New York City coffee scene in comparison to the scenes in the West Coast and Europe—particularly in Oslo and Copenhagen.
When asked, “What’s so different about Oslo and Copenhagen right now,” Strand replied:
Extraordinary quality. Pushing the flavor profiles up to the lighter end of the spectrum. They’re moving so far away from the dark roast and playing with a roast that’s about as light as you can possibly be while still having a fully developed coffee.
That interview got me excited really excited about, among other things, trying some Nordic coffees. Of course, one roaster I’ve been wanting to try since I started getting into specialty coffee is Tim Wendelboe—who, coincidentally, is based in Oslo.
So one can imagine my excitement when I learned that one ship is currently brewing Tim Wendelboe, practically, in my backyard.
Tekangu is a small cooperative with over 900 members who own about a hectar of land each where they grow maize, banana, coffee, and other crops.
At the three wet mills—Tegu, Ngunguru and Karagoto—the coffee cherries are delivered by the farming members and the coffee is then, depulped, washed, fermented and dried at the wet-mill. The cooperative is then responsible for selling the coffee and making sure the farmers are payed accordingly.
Tekangu is a well developed cooperative that focuses on producing quality coffee and get high prices for this coffee in order to improve the quality of life of it’s members. They provide credits for their farmers in order for them to pay for farm input and paying school fees for their children throughout the year. The members are trained on a regular basis in sustainable farming practices and also in how to handle and apply pesticides, etc.
The members are provided with documentation about how much their coffee was sold for so that they know how much money they can expect for the coffee they delivered to the cooperative. In addition, the coop’s marketing agent (Coffee Management Services) provides the buyers and the farmers with documents on all money transfers so that all transactions are made rightfully according to the law.
This is incredibly important as Kenya struggles with corruption; corruption which has led to farmers not getting paid what is rightfully their money.
origin: Karatina, Nyeri, Kenya
farm: Tekangu FCS
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1700 – 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The Kenya Tekangu greets me with an intensely fruity and floral aroma. Life might not be a bed of roses, but the break on this cup certainly is. Immediately, the tip of my nose is greeted by a flutter of rose hips, mixed berries, and African violet.
As I take my first few sips, immediately post-brew, my palate is initially greeted by flavors of… tomato soup. I’m confused. This certainly isn’t what I was expecting after that incredible aroma. But, sure enough, I can’t think of what else I could possibly be tasting.
Wait a tick, though. There suddenly comes bubbling up a push of jammy fruits, cracking through the surface at first, then completely taking over the profile of the cup. There is so much fruit flavor and such a presence of tannins that this coffee could practically pass for a Moscato wine.
Blackberry, raspberry, peach, currants, strawberry, raisin, a very light oakiness, persimmon, lychee, a very fine touch of ginger in the finish that lightly pricks the tongue, and an intensely winey acidity all make for a very unique cup of coffee.
I still don’t know what that tomatoey flavor up front was all about, though. It may have been brewer error, but I’m going to bite the bullet and chalk it up to having a palate that’s unaccustomed to this sort of roast profile.
Light body; jammy mouthfeel; winey acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
My first foray into Nordic coffees, I’d say, was a great success. The Kenya Tekangu, from Tim Wendelboe, is a really unique experience, but equally, I think, it was handled in a really unique way by Tim Wendelboe. Again, this is only my first exposure to a Nordic roast, so I can’t speak to what they do differently than American roasters, but I feel like this coffee would have turned out much differently in the hands of an American roastery.
Besides the very interesting flavors I found in this cup, the thing that made this coffee so interesting was its body and its profile. The thing about Kenyan coffees, as you are well aware, I’m sure, is that they are unlike any other coffee from anywhere else in the world in that a lot of them are intensely acidic and have, for lack of a better term “pointy edges”—their flavors and acidity can be very sharp.
Not only does Tekangu separate itself from the rest of the coffee-growing world as a Kenyan coffee, it separates itself from its Kenyan counterparts. It’s in a league of its own. It doesn’t have any of those sharp edges, it doesn’t share other Kenyas’ intensities—it is a really well-rounded, balanced, fully-developed Kenya.
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