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Karimikui Blackcurrant / Rhubarb / Butterscotch

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This lot from Karimikui is giving bags of sweetness, refreshing, bright acidity and notes of blackcurrant, rhubarb and butterscotch. Karimikui is one of 3 washing stations that make up the Rungeto ...

Origin
Kenya
Region
Kirinyaga
Process
Washed
Variety
SL28 - 34
Altitude
1,700 – 1,900 masl
Harvest
October - January
Co-op
Rungeto Farmers Co-op

This lot from Karimikui is giving bags of sweetness, refreshing, bright acidity and notes of blackcurrant, rhubarb and butterscotch. Karimikui is one of 3 washing stations that make up the Rungeto Farmers Co-op which is located in the Gichugu division of Kirinyaga county in central Kenya. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Kenya, about 70 miles from Nairobi, this region is well-known for its exceptional coffee which has been grown here for nearly 100 years. The name, Kirinyaga, is actually the name given to Mount Kenya by the locals and means crest of whiteness due to its snow-capped peaks.

The Rungeto Co-op

Established in 1953, the Rungeto Co-op consists of about 3500 members. Each of these smallholder members have roughly one hectare of land for growing coffee as well as plots for farming for their own families. In addition to the land provided, the Co-op also provides agronomy training to educate their farmers on disease prevention within susceptible varieties. Education takes the form of hands-on training and Good Agricultural Practice seminars that take place year-round. These practices contribute to the goal of establishing transparent, trusting relationships with the smallholders; in turn ensuring not only the best product for the consumer, but the best price for the farmer at origin. Not only do the Co-op maintain a focus on education, but additionally emphasise the importance of sustainability by reusing much of their water in other areas of the farm – an important facet in the production of washed process coffee.

The varieties

The varieties SL28 and SL34 are fairly common in Kenya but are very rare outside of Kenya. This is mostly because they were developed in Kenya by laboratories that were set up by the government way back in the 1930’s. The SL part of the name comes from the laboratories that developed these varietals which were called Scott’s Laboratories as they took their home in an ex WW1 hospital that was named after a Dr Scott. Originally there were 42 varieties that were researched at the labs but SL28 and SL34 were found to get the best results in terms of yield and disease resistance, the fact that they also taste amazing was more of a secondary coincidence! Interestingly SL28’s lineage comes from Bourbon and SL34’s lineage comes from Typica which are the two main families of Arabica so genetically the two are actually very different from each other.

Processing

After being hand-picked the cherries are delivered straight to the washing station for processing. The process begins by separating the denser, ripe beans from the floating, immature ‘mbuni’s’ through use of a floatation tank. The floating beans are removed and processed as lower grade coffee, while the denser beans sink to the bottom and are sent through channels to a tank where they ferment underwater for around 24 hours. Following this the beans are pulped - this involves a machine which removes the cherries’ skins before the remaining mucilage is washed away from the parchment. This process of washing allows not-only for the variety and terroir to dictate the flavour profile, but also creates a consistent and clean cup. At this point the coffee is put through a second period of fermentation - this time in parchment - for around 12-24 hours. After this, the beans are once again separated through flotation for a second time to ensure consistency and quality. The washed and sorted beans are left to soak in the water for an additional 24 hours – this allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure to develop, creating higher levels of acidity and the development of complex fruit-like flavours that Kenyan coffee has become celebrated for.

The final stage of processing involves the beans being transferred to drying tables in a thin layer for around 6 hours, allowing around 50% of the moisture content to be removed. Finally, the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers on an elevated drying platform for 5-10 days before being left in raised cells, or ‘bodegas’, to breathe fully.

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