At the beginning of 2014, the Table made a resolution to try more international roasters. I had had coffees from Canada and England, but I wanted to branch out into other countries; other continents even. Last week, I happened to notice that Ascension Coffee—in Dallas—is currently featuring a roaster from Seoul, South Korea named 나무사이로 (or “Namusairo Coffee” for you non-reading typing folks out there).
A few members of their staff unanimously agreed that the blend, Love Letter, was the best offering Namusairo had. So I ordered some; and I was surprised to see, when it arrived, that this coffee is, in essence, a half-caf: half Kenya Gachombe and half Decaf Brazil Fazenda Rainha.
KENYA GACHOMBE: Grown just south of the equator in Kenya’s Rift Valley, in Nakuru and Baringo, this coffee is grown in nutrient rich red volcanic soil. The incredibly fertile soil paired with the low rainfall allows this coffee to develop slower than in other areas. This slow development gives the Gachombe intense and rich flavours that really capture what is so incredible about Kenyan coffee.
The three varietals that make up the Gachombe were created by Scott Laboratories in an attempt to create not only an incredible tasting coffee but one that also satisfies the farmers need for disease resistant crops. This allows the farmer to reduce using chemicals without compromising on the final cup.
DECAF BRAZIL RAINHA: Fazenda Rainha belongs to the Carvalho Dias’ family since 1890. Gabriel de Carvalho Dias, nephew of the owner is responsible for managing the farm, which is located exactly on the border with the State of Minas Gerais, and has the characteristics of the mountainous regions of Mogiana and South Minas. Plantations are handled manually, because the local topography does not allow any type of mechanization.
Social and environmental aspects are considered fundamental by the farm’s management. The farm has a program to plant native species to maintain the ecological balance. Furthermore, the employees live in houses with complete infrastructure; there is a school for their children and a leisure area for the families with a club and an official soccer field. The water used in the farm is treated to avoid polluting its water sources.
Coffee is picked manually on cloth, to avoid that the beans touch the soil. As soon as possible the beans are transferred to the processing area, always on the same day they are picked, to avoid any fermentation risks. After the coffee is picked and arrives at the processing area it is immediately washed, when the beans are separated according to size and density and the dry beans (bóia beans) are separated from the rest, and then the coffee is transferred to the terrace to dry. The other beans are sent to the cherry pulper where only the ripe beans are pulped, separating them from the green beans during this stage.
The cherry pulped beans are dried on a terrace until the coffee reaches 20% humidity. At this stage the beans are transferred to the driers for their humidity level to be reduced to 11%. Subsequently, the coffee is transported to the warehouse – which maintains low humidity levels and is free of odors that may affect coffee. The quality of the coffees produced at Fazenda Rainha is the result of the great dedication and care exerted from planting the nursery trees to harvesting and then processing the beans.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping Love Letter, from 나무사이로 (or, Namusairo Coffee) in Seoul, South Korea. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Nakuru/Baringo, Kenya // Mogiana, Brazil
farm: N/A // Fazenda Rainha
producer: smallholder farmers // Luis Pernando
association: Gachombe Cooperative // N/A
elevation: 1800 – 2050// 1150 – 1300 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 // Yellow Bourbon
process: fully washed, raised bed dried // Mountain Water
grind: 18, Preciso
coffee: 20 g
water: 300 mL
pour: very slow pour, :10 stir, very slow press
Love Letter starts off with a delicate, complex aroma. It’s very perfumed and sweet, with scents of flowers, berries, stone fruit, and honey, but it has a savory/herbaceous quality to it, too.
Much like the aroma, the first few sips are delicate, complex, and very intricately layered. The coffee is profiled a la Nordic roast, cooked so lightly that it teeters on the cusp of being starchy; it’s balanced, however, by a gorgeous helping of muscovado sugar and raw honey. Also, like its aroma, each sip is characterized by floral and herbaceous features that prick the sides of the tongue and tantalize the taste buds: silky lavender, violet petal, and pine needles.
As it cools, the Kenyan component in this blend bursts to life; raisin, cranberry, raspberry, red grape, peach, and Fuji apple flooding the palate with a mellow orange rind acidity. What’s unique about the cup at this point is that if you slurp it, the texture is slick and pine needle is the predominant flavor; if you sip it slowly and let it sit on the palate for a few seconds, it’s crazy sweet (almost to the point of tartness) and juicy, then finishes with a flourish of pine needles and oolong tea leaves.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; citrus acidity; slightly astringency finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
This coffee had me exclaiming WOW! in italics from the very first sip. In fact, it was difficult to even take a second sip, a third sip, a fourth sip, and so on because I had to keep picking up my jaw from the floor.
When I bought this coffee, I was expecting a lush, silky, floral and fruity/winy affair and I expected that for two reasons: the Kenyan component and the name of the blend itself, “Love Letter“—I don’t know, that name just sort of conjures up that imagery. And I got that. I got a lot of that. And it was fantastic. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how savory/spicy/herbaceous/starchy Love Letter was.
Namusairo Coffee blew my mind with their Love Letter almost as much as it broke my heart when I finished it off. Truly, an exceptional coffee.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.