This delightful farm is located close to the town of Gatukuyu at around 1,700m and covers 92 hectares. It has been under the current ownership since the 1970s. Neighbouring farms have taken up cultivation of macadamia nut (known locally as Kenya nut) but Makwa remains committed to the cultivation of specialty coffee.
Makwa and the other farms in this region are located close to the equator and this climate produces two crops each year. The main or ‘late’ crop flowers after the long rains in April/May and is harvested from October-December and accounts for around 75% of the farms annual crop. The smaller fly or ‘early’ crop flowers after the short rains of October/November and is picked in May-August and makes up the remaining 25% of the crop.
Most of the farm is planted under SL28 and K7 varietals. A smaller experimental 4 hectare plot of Ruiru 11 (a hybrid of Catimor and SL34) was established as this varietal is resistant to coffee berry disease (CBD), a fungal infection which is widespread in Kenya, and leaf rust – so does not require any spraying, though the coffee has proved less successful in the cup.
Climate change is changing the way coffee is cultivated at Makwa. Indigenous trees are being planted to establish a canopy and provide shade to balance the effects of increased hours of sun coupled with lack of rain in recent years that have stressed the coffee plants and caused an uneven and extended maturation of the crop. The shade cover should help redress this problem. Makwa follows the framework established under the 4C programme.
The yield achieved on Makwa is high at 1,700kg/ha. The original root stock dates back 100 years. Every 5 years the coffee plants are cut back to force new growth. This optimises yield and help to strengthen the plants against CBD.
Throughout the plots, shallow basins are dug between the coffee plants to capture rainwater and prevent run off. These are covered in leaf mulch to further prevent moisture loss through evaporation, ensuring the plants have water to sustain them in the dry months.
Theft of parchment from drying tables across Kenya is a problem when prices are high. This is easily sold on to unscrupulous mill owners and then anonymously bulked. Drying tables on the farms are surrounded by fencing and most employ night watchmen.
Housing and gardens are provided for the 120-strong workforce and are located close to the drying tables and milling facility. As many as 300 people are employed on the farm at the peak of the picking, mostly women who remain the backbone of the rural economy in much of Africa. Tiny and agile dik-dik antelope are common on the farm and small vervet monkeys live in the larger trees in the protected wooded areas.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Kenya Makwa, from Klatch Coffee in Upland, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Makwa, Kenya
farm/factory: Makwa Estate
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Makwa Cooperative
elevation: 1590 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, Ruiru 11
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma coming off of the Kenya Makwa is really nice, with really sweet scents of chocolate and caramel, mixed together and carrying lighter notes of mixed berries and nuts.
Diving into the the cup, my palate is greeted by a full-bodied coffee that completely coats the palate with notes of creamy chocolate and syrupy salted caramel. Each sip is a decadent treat, with flavors of black currants and raspberry bubbling up underneath and a finish that features tastes of hazelnut.
As it cools off the coffee becomes especially juicy, flooding over the tongue with bright and fleshy notes of strawberry, red grape, and raisin, but there’s also a thick, hot, and somewhat medicinal taste of brandy and cherry cough syrup. There is, though, a really weird green pepper flavor that doesn’t necessarily pervade the finish of the coffee, but certainly is very prominent.
Full body; juicy mouthfeel; grape acidity; mildly dry finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Wow, this was a pretty wild coffee. A lot of really intense flavors all bouncing off each other with a wild kinetic energy, the Kenya Makwa, from Klatch Coffee, provides a unique tasting experience from beginning to end.
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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.