“Big Sky” is the rough translation of the Tonga words Ljulu Lipati, and the phrase can be interpreted as both an understatement and a mission statement at Mubuyu farm in southwest Zambia: the big, beautiful blue sky is the limit when it comes to the potential for quality coffee.
Willem Lublinkhof, a Dutch immigrant, founded the farm in 1971 in the high altitude desert. To combat the scarcity of water, a million-dollar damming project was installed and center-pivot irrigation systems were integrated for soy and wheat (the first of their kind in Zambia). About 170 hectares of the farm are covered with SL28 coffee trees, a Bourbon variety first popularized and still widely used in Kenya. Olive trees and Acacia grow amongst the coffee, and there is a plot of vegetables and flowers to harvest and sell for seed.
However, the most impressive engineering structures on the farm are the washing station and drying tables. Extensive grading channels snake down from the massive tanks where coffee cherries are fermented after de-pulping. A mesh canopy shades the enormous tiered system of tables that turn the drying parchment coffee and tumble it downwards. The tables are outfitted with larger-than-life fans to circulate air, and an expansive patio, also partly shaded, is used for drying pulped naturals.
Jesper (Willem’s son and executor on the farm) and Andrew Clowes, his farm manager, are constantly innovating – whether it’s accelerating fermentation times with an experimental enzyme or running pulped naturals through grading channels, they’re constantly seeking ways to improve their processing.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Zambia Ljulu Lapita, from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Mazabuka District, Zambia
farm: Mubuyu Estate, Munali Coffee
producer: Willem and Jesper Lublinkhof
elevation: 1100 – 1200 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
I have to say—I am really surprised by the aroma of this Ljulu Lipati. I’ve never had a coffee from Intelligentsia that was even a little bit roasty, but the aroma of this coffee certainly has some roast to it; it doesn’t smell like it’s over-roasted, by any means, but it’s little darker than I’m used to for an Intelligentsia coffee.
Diving into the first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, my palate is again greeted by roasty spiciness up front that bites the tip and sides of the tongue. This is a full-bodied coffee and it is characterized by dense flavors of salted caramel, brown sugar, spicy cinnamon, cedar, and earth. There is, though, a juicy spiced cherry bubbling just under the surface that goes a long way to keep the coffee interesting.
As it cools off, the coffee explodes to life; and the cooler the cup gets, the brighter, tarter, and juicier it gets. Absolutely beautiful notes of grapefruit, star fruit, nectarine, apricot, golden delicious apple, zesty orange rind, pear juice, and dry white wine play out in the back of the cup, leaving behind a slightly astringent finish.
Full body; juicy mouthfeel; malic acidity; astringent finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
I have never tried such a complex, dynamic, and intricately layered coffee from Zambia; the few Zambias I had in the past were, well… Well, quite frankly they were terrible. The Zambia Ljulu Lipati, from Intelligentsia Coffee, on the other hand…
This coffee was really unique and extremely flavorful.
*background information provided by CHRIS KORNMAN, QUALITY CONTROL MANAGER and GREEN BUYER for Intelligentsia 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.