George Howell first discovered this exceptional coffee during a purchasing trip to Kenya in 2005, where he scooped up the entire lot at auction. He was so pleased with the results that he forged an exclusive relationship the following year with the Mathagu family, who own and operate the Mamuto estate.
For more than 40 years Walter Paul and Muthoni Mathagu have managed a 21-acre farm in the gently rolling hills of Kenya’s Kirinyaga region, just south of Mount Kenya. Climbing over 5,000 meters into the sky, the now-extinct volcano has blessed the surrounding areas with fertile red-orange soil that’s home to some of the most exceptional and expensive coffees in the world.
A true family affair, the estate is now in its second generation of ownership under Patrick Mathagu and the farm’s name serves as a symbol of their commitment to keeping the operation in the family.
The first two letters of the names Mathagu and Muthoni combine with the first two letters of the word “toto” – Swahili for children – to represent the past, present, and future of their estate.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Kenya Mamuto, from George Howell Coffee Company in Acton, Massachusetts, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Kirinyaga, Kenya
producer(s): Walter Paul and Muthoni Mathagu
elevation: 1545 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Kenya Mamuto is very potent, and comes exploding out of the bag, filling the entire kitchen, as soon as I open the packaging. Powerful scents of intensely bright tropical fruits, honey, and freshly baked pie crust.
Even in the first few sips, this coffee isn’t pulling any punches. While the tip and back of my tongue are initially greeted by a spicy clove flavor, the center is bombarded with an intense, bright, tart, and lively grapefruit acidity, along with further notes of pink lady apple, blackberry, juicy sweet cherry, and guava. There is a bit of relief from the onslaught of tropicalia that is found in savory notes of dark chocolate and raw honey.
As it cools, the grapefruit only gets brighter, more lively, more prevalent on the palate. Tasting past that, though, there are some really wonderful flavors of fleshy fruits (black currant, cranberry, raisin, and cantaloupe) that keep the coffee a bit more tethered down before finishing with a lasting finish that features buttered scone.
Light body; juicy mouthfeel; grapefruit acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Kenya Mamuto, from George Howell Coffee Company, is an intensely bright and lively coffee that hops and bounces all over the palate, hitting every taste bud in a different way, presenting an incredibly unique overall profile that has a little something for all tastes. Moreover, though, it’s a beautiful coffee that really dazzles.
However, the Mamuto isn’t a coffee for the fainthearted; no, it would probably be most appreciated by more advanced consumers with above average palates. That, of course, is due to its inherent tartness/bitterness and a really sharp acidity that is sure to surprise consumers who aren’t accustomed to coffees like this.
For us specialty enthusiasts, though, it’s a real delight; equally enjoyable as it is challenging. Even for a Kenya, which are usually complex and unique coffees as they are, the Mamuto is a special coffee that should be set apart from its peers.
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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.