We’re back in Kenya for this delivery, in the Nyeri region that’s produced some of our favourite coffees this year.
Nyeri County is between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range and the western slopes of Mt Kenya.
The cool temperatures and red volcanic soils combined with the altitude (around 1,700m above sea level) mean coffee develops slowly, producing relatively small crops of intensely flavoured beans.
Most of the coffee is grown as small family plots alongside the homes, located on the slopes and upper plateau. The main harvest months are from October to January.
Smallholders deliver coffee cherry to the factory, where it is depulped, dry-fermented, washed and soaked. Parchment is then dried slowly on raised tables during which time it is frequently turned and constantly sorted by hand to remove any defects.
One of the great things about the system in Kenya is that mostly coffees are separated in to small lots and different grades. Through the auction system each coffee is evaluated separately and has an individual price based on the cup quality and attributes.
This gives producers a real incentive to focus on quality control, as it is almost always recognised with higher returns.
Ruiru 11 and Batian
You’ll also notice a new name in the varietals: Batian. We’ve talked about the leaf rust fungus before, and how traditional varietals like SL28 and SL34 are susceptible. Government bodies in countries dependant on coffee exports developed rust-resistant strains such as Ruiru-11, but they are generally seen as having poor quality flavours and cup profiles.
Batian is the latest strain to be developed, and while it’s early days, there’s hope it will combine complex flavour profiles with the fungus resistance that helps protect the livelihoods of farmers dependent on coffee crops.