Kenya Kanake is a washing station on the upper elevations of the Aberdare Range in Kiambu county. It’s truly picturesque—nestled in between small tea farms and low laying clouds. High elevation gives both the range required for developing acidity and the cool climate needed for preserving organic materials through drying.
Kenya Kanake Factory is part of a larger cooperative (Komothai Coffee Growers Cooperative), which manages twelve washing stations (called factories in Kenya). This scale can be an advantage, in this case, allowing Kanake to take over a dry mill to see their coffee all the way through. And the coop makes more when they keep milling in-house.
With their profits Komothai is investing in their future, and ours. When we last visited Wilson, their Chairman, was proud to show off the newly operational dry mill through which this year’s coffee was processed. And they have already turned to their next project – a cupping lab to host buyers and to further their knowledge of the coffees they produce.
Wilson has been a long-time Chairman (serving several terms) and shows all the signs of a motivated leader, including shrewd negotiation*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Kenya Kanake, from Craft Coffee in Brooklyn, New York. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Nyeri, Kenya
farm: Kenya Kanake Factory
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Komothai Coffee Growers Cooperative
elevation: 1980 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, Ruiru-11, Batian
process: fully washed, patio dried
Kenya Kanake’s aroma is a pretty unique one; a lot of interesting scents wafting out of the cup. It’s intensely bright and fruit-forward, while also being intensely sugary sweet. In the background are soft floral and tea-like nuances.
The flavor is no less unique. Some flavors follow the nose, others appear out of nowhere. It’s a light coffee; a light coffee with an intensely juicy mouthfeel that floods the taste buds. Loads of sweetness with flavors of refined sugar (dominantly) and mellow honey flavors in the background; it’s also a very bright and tart coffee with flavors of grapefruit juice, starfruit, and a biting acetic acidity. Mingled in there are further fruity notes like melon, honeycrisp apple, and peach and mild bergamot aromatics that play through a dry, astringent finish.
At a specific point in the cup, though,—right smack-dab in that phase between the cool-down phase and the room-temperature phase—there is a very specific starchy vegetal flavor that shoots to the forefront of each sip; and it’s a starchy vegetal flavor I don’t think I’ve ever tasted in a coffee before: celery. So it’s pretty clear that the cup isn’t completely balanced, but it does have tremendous clarity that allows all of these flavors to come through and be easily identifiable.
For as bright, starchy, and acetic as it is, though, it doesn’t really feel all that underdeveloped to me. It’s definitely a light roast, but its overall flavor profile and structure don’t really provide any further indication that it’s underdeveloped, so… Pretty interesting.
Craft Coffee’s Kenya Kanake is a unique, complex, and ultimately bizarre coffee. There is so much happening in this cup; so many specific and unique flavors layered upon each other, interwoven with each other—some bolstering each other, some clashing with each other. It’s intensely fruity and sugary sweet, bright, tart, effervescent, sparkling, floral, starchy, juicy… Truly, the cupping experience was all over the place.
And that’s exactly what this cup offered in the end—an experience. For better or worse, it was an experience.
*content courtesy of Crop to Cup Coffee Importers
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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.