Great sweetness and intensity, with kumquat, kiwi, plum and dark chocolate. Cola-like acidity with a syrupy texture.
My last trip to Kenya was back in 2014, with Andrew Kelly of Small Batch, and before then with Tim Wendelboe during my stint with him. It's the origin I had the strongest connection with, and for many years the Kenyan cup profile was my favourite. It still ranks incredibly high, and remains the origin I get most excited by - Kenyan's typically have such vibrant, exciting profiles, so it's hard not be bushy-tailed when cupping harvest. Thankfully, I get to live through Aislinn and the team at Melbourne Coffee Merchants, and so here we have Stella's first of three Kenyan lots.
From Aislinn at MCM: Kabumbu is a small coffee estate in Kirinyaga County, owned and managed by Joseph Mugo Karaba (pictured above). Joseph inherited the shamba (Swahili for ‘farm’) from his father, who first planted coffee in the 1960s. He and his family live on the estate which includes five acres of coffee trees and a small wet mill, where Joseph processes and prepares his coffees.Kabumbu sits across 1,500-1,750 meters above sea level in the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mt Kenya. The area is defined by its bright red, nutrient-rich, volcanic soil and cool climate, both of which contribute to the outstanding quality of the coffees produced on this farm. Joseph grows SL-28 and SL-34 varieties on his farm, which were planted by his father when the shamba was established. The trees have been continuously regenerated since that time, using a stumping technique where new stalks are allowed to grow from the stump to replace older stalks, which are then cut back when the new stalks reach full maturation. In addition to these varieties, Joseph has chosen to plant a newer hybrid variety, Batian, which has been developed specifically for high yields and disease resistance, coupled with the potential for excellent cup quality.
Alongside the coffee shamba, Kabumbu Estate also has a small wet mill – or factory, as they are called in Kenya – on its land. This factory enables Joseph to process and dry his coffee crop onsite, rather than selling fresh, whole cherry to a local Farmers’ Society Cooperative. By processing his coffee independently, Joseph is able to control every step of the coffee’s production directly – from farming, to harvesting, processing, drying and sale – which helps him to ensure the full potential of his crop is achieved in terms of quality and price. The resulting coffee reflects the incredible amount of hard work and attention to managing every single variable that influences quality.Choosing to process the coffee independently is not easy—or cheap. Managing processing on such a small scale has required significant investment in infrastructure, equipment and staff. It is also far costlier to process small volume lots than large day lots. This investment has paid off, however, as Kabumbu is now producing some exceptionally high-quality lots which fetch very high prices at the point of sale.
KABUMBU and SUCASTAINABILITY
Since 2017, Kabumbu has received support from Sucastainability—a marketing agent that is on the ground directly helping Joseph with training, education and support, and to secure the very best prices for his milled coffee. Joseph was one of the first farmer clients to work with Sucastainability, and has a close relationship with their team!Unlike other agents in Kenya, Sucastainability has a particular focus on working with small-holder farms like Ngamba that have the infrastructure to process coffee on their own estates, but whose lot volumes are too small to sell at auction. Though this can be challenging (the smaller lot sizes are more expensive to mill and market), it is worthwhile because it provides more traceability and transparency and ensures that premiums paid for the coffee are given directly back to the producer.
Responsibly sourced by the excellent team at Melbourne Coffee Merchants.
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