In the 1930’s the Kenyan government commissioned Scott Labs to do some work identifying, crossbreeding and cataloging coffee varietals. Botanists crossbred different mutations of Bourbon, Mocha and Typica on a mission to find a coffee that was delicious, high yielding and disease resistant. SL-28 and SL-34 were (and still are) the most popular varietals to come out of this research. [You’ve probably figured out by now that SL stands for ‘Scott Labs.’] SL-28 is a French Mission (Bourbon), Mocha and Typica hybrid and SL-34 is a Fench Mission (Bourbon) mutation. Combine this with excellent, acidic loam soil and a unique washed processing method [the coffee is fermented twice, washed and allowed one final soak before being dried on raised beds] and you set the stage for producing some of the world’s best coffees.
This lot from the Giakanja washing station in the Tetu division of Nyeri County is a beautiful representation of what a Kenyan coffee can be.
Giakanja is a coffee washing station, a wet mill, and what is referred to in Kenya as a “factory” Small washing stations are aligned with a particular “society” which is what they call a cooperative in Kenya. In this case, Giakanja is part of the Giakanja Farmers Cooperative Society. Giakanja lies in the Tetu division of Nyeri county, and was at one point in time part of Tetu FCS, lobbying for single society status over 50 years ago. At this point in time, the FCS has nearly 2000 members, growing a mix of SL-28, SL-34, andRuiru 11. Contributing farmers are spread out around the county, with average altitude ranging from 1750 to 1800 meters.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Kenya Giakanja AA, from Mountain Air Roasting in Asheville, North Carolina. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Nyeri, Kenya
farm: Giakanja Washing Station
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1900 – 2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ruiru-11, SL28, SL34
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
method: Kalita Wave
grind: 12, Preciso
coffee: 21 g
water: 300 g
water temp: 202°
pour: 1:15 concentric pour, 1:00 drop
This cup of Kenya Giakanja AA is wonderfully aromatic; perfumed, elegant, and complex. It’s actually pretty winy, being characterized by dark berries, honey, and violet.
Taking my first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, I have to say—this is a beautiful coffee. It has a gorgeous flavor profile—sweet, tart, and sugary—and its texture is so honeyed and supple—again, “winy” is the best way to describe it. A foundation of honey and cane sugar carries absolutely beautiful flavors of blackberry, plum, red grape, black cherry, and Fuji apple, which is responsible for the silky malic acidity streaming down the center of my tongue.
As it cools, the cup it almost completely transforms, morphing from supple and winy to juicy and tropical. The only constant flavors that unite the first and second halves of the cup are plum and apple; replacing the berries, grape, and cherry flavors are clean, crisp tropical fruits like guava, papaya, passion fruit, kiwi, and a candied orange peel citric acidity.
Medium body; complex mouthfeel; winy acidity; clean finish.
With their Kenya Giakanja, Mountain Air Roasting offered up a really beautiful, elegantly voluptuous and supple cup of coffee that is also nuanced and complex—one that challenges the palate and entices the taste buds; definitely not a straightforward coffee.
What really struck me about this coffee was how immense it was on the palate, but how crisp its flavors were, how cleanly it finished, how it evolved over the course of the cup, and how sudden the transition was from the first to the second half of the cup. I would have been pleased if the coffee retained its red winy profile (supple, honeyed, deep, dark berries) throughout, but I was excited by the turn it took into the bright and juicy tropical fruit punch profile it became.
I can’t recommend this coffee highly enough; it dazzles, it excites, it pleases.
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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.