Today’s coffee comes from a number of smallholder farmers in the Karindundu region of Kenya. The average coffee farmer that delivers coffee cherries to the Karatina factory has about 250 trees, and only about half an acre of land. Karatina is the oldest coffee factory in the region, working with small farmers in the local community since 1957.
In Kenya, the very term coffee factory can be misleading, since this isn’t a factory in the sense that we are familiar with in North America at all. There are no automotive parts being fabricated here, and here the term “factory” would be closer in meaning to “mill” than a place that produces cell phones or consumer goods.
That said, a lot goes on here: coffee delivered to the factory washing station is de-pulped, fermented, and then washed in a washing channel. The coffee is then dried on raised beds.
One quality control point is unique in Kenya: the parchment is cleaned by hand when it first hits the raised beds, which is important because in the first couple days of drying, underripe beans are easier to spot and therefore can be cleaned out before the coffee is milled for exporting.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Kenya Karindundu, from Carabello Coffee in Newport, Kentucky. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Karindundu, Kenya
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1700 – 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma coming off of the Kenya Karindundu is pleasant, with a nice mixture of sweet and spicy fragrances. Initial scents of wood and wildflowers greet the nose before introducing sweet scents of cocoa powder and mixed berries.
Taking my first few sips of this coffee present my palate with notes of savory sweetness, mellow spice, and comfort. There are some soft notes of cedar and baking spices that prickle the taste buds, but there’s also really beautiful flavors of (slightly) burnt chocolate ganache, brown sugar, and pralines that show up in the finish.
As it cools off, the coffee bursts to life as bright, juicy flavors take over and the cup becomes an acidity-driven affair. Apricot, nectarine, peach, black currant, cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and guava flood over the tongue, while a sharp, tart pineapple acidity flows down the middle of the tongue. Gorgeous.
Full body; silky mouthfeel; pineapple acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Kenyan coffees are often incredibly uniquely bright fruity or floral affairs that are polarizing – you either love ’em or hate ’em. Every now and then, though, you come across one that’s accessible – one that can be enjoyed by the Every Person. The Kenya Karindundu, from Carabello Coffee, represents the latter.
One of the things Justin, the owner of Carabello, wrote in his letter to me was that, as a specialty coffee roaster and business owner in an area that is largely unaccustomed to specialty coffee, he is forced to walk a tightrope, trying to strike the perfect balance between “what’s best for the coffee” and “what the customer wants.” I’m no roaster, but even I can appreciate how tender a situation that is. With the Kenya Karindundu, though, I have to say – it seems like he’s pulling it off.
The Karindundu had everything I want a fine Kenyan coffee to have – sharp acidity, juicy texture, bright, lively fruits – but it was roasted in a way that wouldn’t scare off newbies or light roast opponents (I mean, who in their right mind would… anyway, I digress).
A beautiful coffee that was handled adeptly.
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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.