Blackcurrant & Rhubarb
Harvest: January 2019
Producer: Thirikwa Farmers Cooperative Society
Variety: SL-28, SL-34
Altitude: 1,600 - 1,700 masl
Arrival: June 2019
We decided to purchase just one lot from Kenya this year, so we’ve made it our mission to find something extra special! This coffee is from the Thirikwa Farmers Co-op and was 1 of 50 samples we tasted at the spring cupping in Oslo earlier this year. This was our first experience tasting Kenyan coffees this fresh, which was both new and exciting for both of us! Just like wines that need to be left open before drinking, all coffee requires a certain amount of rest before roasting. This allows the flavours stored in the beans to relax and open up. The samples we tasted that day were still very fresh and initially everything tasted quite similar. However once the coffee had cooled, we found Gakuyuini AA really came into its own! We both agreed it was the most balanced and underneath all that freshness, we could pick out those brilliant blackcurrant notes we love so much from Kenya.
Located on the slopes of Mount Kenya, Gakuyuini is the name of the washing station where this coffee was processed. The Thirikwa Farmers Cooperative has 1,553 members that take advantage of the fertile volcanic soils in the area. The membership here is quite spread between male and female, with 674 female farmers and 879 male farmers. It’s been a tough year for these smallholders. In November last year, it was predicted they would loose 60-80% of their crop due to Coffee Berry Disease (CBD). Fortunately, many farmers caught the pathogen early and sprayed their trees with copper, which minimised losses. Some of those farmers even exceeded their predicted yield. While this news comes as a great relief, it’s becoming evident that CBD is fundamentally changing the profile of Kenyan coffees. It’s still possible to find those blackcurrant, blackberry and blueberry laden jammy cups, but this is becoming increasingly difficult. Lately those profiles are outweighed by lemon, red berries, floral and apple profiles, which could be the result of a changing soil structure, temperature variations and possibly other factors yet to be identified. What we do know is the CBD-resistant hybrid, Ruiru, is becoming increasingly popular among farmers in severely affected areas, and over 50% of the coffees we tasted at the cupping last spring contained this variety.
Gakuyuini doesn’t contain any Ruiru which is perhaps why we were drawn to it in the first place. You can expect all that big purple fruit but we still wouldn’t consider this a ‘classic’ Kenyan profile. There’s distinct flavours of sweet rhubarb here too which only adds to the overall complexity. This coffee is super sweet, jammy and bursting with flavour! If this is a glimpse into the future of Kenyan coffee, then there’s a lot to look forward to!