This year Intelligentsia Coffee launched their first Kenyan mark: Kunga Maitu.
In Kikuyu, Kunga means “brave” and Maitu means “mother.” Kunga Maitu is the name of a song performed by Kenyan children upon the return of their mother from the farm, market, or a journey. The song creates a refreshing mood for the tired mother and displays appreciation for her choice of goods and selfless service to the family. After the children sing Kunga Maitu, the mother is then allowed to rest and she is served a small snack.
Our Kunga Maitu offering this year comes from the Gikanda Farmers Cooperative, and more specifically the Kangocho factory (washing station) located in the Nyeri District outside of the town of Karatina at the foot of Mount Kenya.
The Gikanda Cooperative is one of the most successful and forward thinking farmer’s groups in Kenya. They have invested in strong infrastructure and are known for paying some of the best prices to their cooperative members.
The conditions for growing coffee in the Nyeri District are almost perfect: high elevation, abundant rainfall throughout the year, fairly large temperature differences between day and night, as well as the renowned SL28 and SL34 cultivars.
In addition, the Kenyan traditions for post-harvest coffee handling are among the most effective of any coffee growing countries when it comes to preserving or enhancing cup quality. The Kenyan method allows for fermentation times lasting up to 72 hours – triple that of many other coffee growing regions. A combination of wet and dry fermentation followed by a post-washing 24 hour soaking period, strongly contribute to the astounding depth and intensity of flavor found in the coffee beans from the Nyeri District of Kenya.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Kunga Maitu Kenya, from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Nyeri, Kenya
farm: Gikanda Cooperative
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1600 – 1900 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34
process: pulped natural, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Kunga Maitu is so light, so delicate, but so fragrant—there are a lot of fruits here, propelled forward by a flutter of floral aromatics. Cherry blossom, rose hips, citrus, apple, and a white sugary sweetness.
Immediately post brew, my palate is greeted by a light Tupelo honey and silky rose petals that very delicately slip over the palate. This is such a light, delicate cup of coffee with complex flavors that it’s actually kind of difficult to taste everything happening.
As it cools off, though, the coffee gets decidedly brighter—it sparkles and shines elegantly, like a sequin gown. Furthermore, at this point in the cup a lot of clarity comes about and I can taste its really dynamic tropical fruit flavors. Pink lady apple, agave nectar, pear, strawberry, cherry blossom, mango, white grapefruit, passion fruit, and a tart tangerine acidity that leaves behind a fresh, crisp finish on the palate.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Kunga Maitu Kenya, from Intelligentsia Coffee, is such a beautiful, elegant, and graceful coffee. Furthermore, it is also incredibly light and delicate. This isn’t a coffee that splashes or explodes or completely envelopes the palate; no, this is a coffee that simply pirouettes across the palate.
This Kenya is bright and floral and fruity and effervescent; it has all of the best characteristics of a Kenya, nay, it is the very definition of how utterly beautiful a great Kenyan coffee can be.
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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.