Enjoy your coffee and remember that quality is the result of the sum of many factors and not just one of them.
The harvest is for specialty coffee production process, as the script is for a very good movie; the structural basis and the parameter that will mark its quality.
Suppose we are going to process the lot A, which will be separated according to a series of characteristics that in the industry we call traceability (origin, altitude, process, cultivation, fermentation, etc.); The quality of lot A will be defined by the way in which its cherries are harvested. After the harvest, there will be no possibility of increasing the quality of this lot, we can only maintain it and try very hard not to reduce it.
Today, we often hear about processes with different types of experimental fermentations, which tend to confuse the expectations of our customers, and we may forget that coffee is the result of the sum of many factors and circumstances, which go beyond one or another specific fermentation.
In Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffees we find it very positive that producers and importers continue experimenting with processes and fermentations that allow the development of the industry; but we also hope that these flashy names are not used to influence a purchase decision, or as a tool to charge more for a lot that perhaps was not harvested the right way, and it is assumed that just by having a "funky" fermentation the lot will develop a certain flavor, sweetness or quality. This is important, since otherwise we would be replicating the model followed in Indonesia with the Kopi Luwak, where due to the wonders of nature and the well developed nose of the civet, when in freedom, it was able to select the cherries with the greater amount of sugars (selective picking), and the quality of the coffee was given in the first place for this reason and not only by "intraintestinal" fermentation. Then we all know what happened to the sadly famous Kopi Luwak.
For this reason, it is essential for us to travel every year to origin in harvest time, and observe first hand the standards that will dictate the quality of the lots that we will bring to Barcelona.
Enjoy your coffee and remember that quality is the result of the sum of many factors and not just one of them.
Our new Sumatran lots are arriving in Barcelona in exactly 10 days from now! And we are very excited about it, because this year's selection is better than ever! We have been able to verify that the quality of our partner Cooperatives in Sumatra has consistently improved since we started working with this origin in 2015.
But how has this happened? How can such an underestimated and undervalued origin by the world of specialty coffee, can become a new quality trend in many countries, and a No. 1 favourite for many coffee enthusiasts around the world in such a short time?
We believe that the answer to these questions is based on three fundamental changes that Sumatran producers understood, adopted and were willing to work very hard to achieve.
1.- Low price of coffee: We all want to live well, we all have bills to pay and we all want to give our children a good education. Sumatran coffee growers are no exception to that, and they understood that the key to improving their quality of life was to concentrate on producing high quality lots in order to obtain better prices. The only way that "C" prices would work in real life, it would be for a large estate, with many hectares of land and with large volumes of production. For small coffee farmers who own less than one hectare of cultivated land, the focus must be on high quality coffee and intercropping.
2.- Traceability: today in Sumatra, it is not uncommon to find small cooperatives dedicated to producing traditionally cultivated coffees, in a specific area, with a determined variety and produced by a small and identifiable group of people. The lots are fully traceable, to a small village or a small group of coffee growers. This reality responds to a worldwide demand for quality and reliable information. Unlike before, when most of Sumatra's coffee was sold under the name of "Sumatra Mandheling," when there is no place, call Mandheling in Sumatra.
Processing methods: There are many producers who are experimenting with different processing methods and fermentations in Sumatra. Although, these are new and powerful tools for them, they are improving and gaining experience quickly. We really hope that very soon we will be able to be buying natural, honeys, wine, and more lots with experimental processing methods, but until today we do not believe that the industry has reached that level yet. But there is one processing method that for us is the King, and until today, we haven’t been able to find any better coming from this exotic island and neither from the whole Indonesian Archipelago. This is Giling Basah! If you don’t know what Giling Basah is, please check our Youtube channel, we have a couple of explanatory videos there, both in English and Spanish. We'll leave the link of our channel in the bio.
Enjoy your Sumatran Coffee, and always remember: DO NOT buy cheap coffee!
As we all know, roasting high density coffees is difficult, but roasting high density dry process coffees is even more so!
What should you keep in mind to start developing your own killer roasting profile for natural coffees?
1º THE DENSITY OF THE LOT
During the washing process, there are many more opportunities for selection and grading than in the natural process. Although, lately in origins such as Ethiopia and Burundi, where there are cooperatives focusing on quality, they have begun to introduce hand selection and flotation grading, prior to the drying of the cherries on patios or African beds.
This "lack" of selection and grading during the dry process, generates big differences in the density, moisture content, sugar content and cellular structure of the beans of a certain lot.
Therefore, to obtain consistent results during your roasting, it will be necessary to adjust your profile, which should be different from the one you use for high altitude washed coffees, and also different from the one you use for Brazilians naturals, since these beans are less dense than those from Ethiopia or Burundi for example.
2º METABOLIC EVENTS THAT OCCUR IN THE BEAN DURING DP
During the dry process, a series of important metabolic events occurs within the bean that are almost imperceptible to the human eye, but very much to the taste buds!
In the cell wall structure of the bean, there is a significant mutation of organic and inorganic compounds, a migration of low molecular weight sugars (such as sucrose, glucose and fructose), and a relative (but not absolute) increase of polysaccharides and acetic acid.
3º PRACTICAL ASPECTS TO CONSIDER
- Start your roast with a lower charge temperature. (25% less than what you use your high-density washed profile is a good starting point)
- Try to stretch the drying stage, so you can "thermally align" the whole batch.
- Reduce the amount of energy input (with air flow and/or gas) when the crack begins, but without extending its development for more than 1.30 min.
We hope this article become useful and let us know in the comments what is your experience roasting natural coffees from Ethiopia or Burundi!
According to the Cambridge dictionary, the word "Heirloom" has the following meanings:
1.- valuable object that older members of a family have given to younger members of the same family for many years.
2.- a fruit, plant or seed of a type, which has existed for many years.
From a botanical point of view, the definition of an heirloom variety establishes that this must be open-pollinated. Arabica coffee is a self-pollinated crop, so from the very beginning the definition of heirloom doesn’t apply to Arabica coffee.
For many years in the coffee industry, the word Heirloom has been used as a generic term to describe one or a group of unknown cultivated varieties in a particular lot, farm or region, that over a long period of time has been planted and passed from a coffee farmer to the next.
Since the Specialty Coffee movement started to rise in western countries, there was an obvious necessity for traceability and more information. Although the Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC), has been working since the 70’s in researching and developing new varieties, at the time, importers had very little information to describe the varieties of the coffees they were buying from Ethiopia.
Today, thanks to scientists such as Getu Bekele, who have been studying Ethiopian wild and cultivated varieties for decades, we can learn, recognize and differentiate, two big groups of Ethiopian Coffee Varieties: the Regional Landraces and the JARC improved.
There are between 6.000 to 10.000 Regional Landraces and the JARC has developed around 40 improved varieties, which has been distributed among farmers all over the country. These improved varieties address issues of CBD, leaf rust, cup quality and yielding, and today, are widely used all over the coffee growing regions in Ethiopia.
For example, if we analyzed the Jimma Region, we can learn that the improved varieties of the area belong to the Metu Bishari Selection of 1974/75 including: 74110, 74112, 74140, 74148 & 74165 varieties. The Regional Landraces found in this area will include: Kuburi, Bedessa, Yawan and Dalacha among others.
Also, there will be a specific and different set of improved varieties and Regional Landraces found in Yirgachefe/Sidamo, Harar, Gera and Walaga.
If you want to know more about this very interesting topic, check Getu’s book, “A Reference Guide to Ethiopian Coffee Varieties”.
And last but not least, enjoy your Ethiopian Coffee with full traceability 😊
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" - Albert Einstein
In August of the year 2018, the price of coffee reached levels considered alarming by the majority of those who work in the coffee industry. For the first time in 12 years, the "C" price in New York fell below 100cts/lb. While it is true, the average price of the last 12 years is not much higher than 120cts/lb, this decline generated unprecedented reactions in the specialty coffee world, which we think is positive.
Historically, the price of coffee has been extremely volatile, due to the never ending discrepancies between supply and demand. But these constant cycles of highs and lows, have devastating effects for producers and coffee workers from around the world. Of course, in the United States this crisis goes virtually unnoticed, where the global coffee market is dominated by few multinationals: Kraft General Foods, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, J.M. Smucker Company, Starbucks Corporation and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Globally, coffee is a US $ 100 billion business annually (Business Insider 2018), but producing countries only capture US $ 20 billion of this value, with most of the profits being retained in developed countries. As on the supply side, the coffee world is very fragmented, with millions of small-scale coffee farmers, the power of the business lies in the large importers and roasters, who buy the green beans and process them into various products.
But what would happen: if small coffee farmers knew exactly how much their product is worth? If they could calculate their production, logistics and marketing costs? And if they could obtain a price that promotes the quality and sustainability of their production?
We strongly believe that the key to unlock this crisis, does not lie on the same companies that have controlled the business for centuries, but it is at the origin. It should not be New York, London or Berlin, who decides what is the "fair price" that a coffee farmer must obtain. But it must be the coffee farmer, informed and empowered, who demand the price that he deems appropriate, according to the quality he obtained and the investment he made.
We have an invaluable opportunity in the young and new generations of coffee growers, with unlimited access to online information, eager to learn and with a global mind set. There is where we must aim all our efforts to improve this reality.
Let's make this a sustainable business for everyone and enjoy your specialty coffee!
Kenya is probably one of the most advanced producing countries, in the study and experimentation with the genetic diversity of Arabicas, and is far ahead of important countries such as Ethiopia for example.
On our last trip to Kenya we met the great "Dr. James", who works at the "Kenya Coffee Research Institute" station in Nyeri. In this place, he explained, how they are performing grafting of Ruiru 11 with SL 28, and the importance of its result for the future of the industry.
Grafting in Agriculture, is a technique where tissues of different plants are joined to continue their growth together. This technique seeks to obtain the best of each of the varieties. Generally in plant breeding, the greater the genetic distance between the two parents, the more "vigorous" the child will be (World Coffee Research).
Ruiru 11 is a variety of high productivity and resistance to diseases. But the problem is that its root is too short, and it is not able to get enough nutrients from the rich African soil. This usually causes poor results in the cup, without the usual complexity of other varieties grown in Kenya.
In contrast, SL 28, is a variety, which as we all know, has an excellent cup quality, but it has low productivity and is susceptible to diseases such as Leaf Rust or CBD.
Dr. James and his team are grafting leaves of Ruiru11 (scion) with a root of SL 28 (stock), to create resistant varieties of high productivity, with the capacity to absorb more nutrients and hopefully, obtain a better quality in the cup .
It is urgent that we begin to work together towards the development of new varieties and the increment the genetic diversity of this specie that we like so much.
Enjoy the genetic and organoleptic diversity of your Kenyan coffee!
"Taste is undoubtedly a delicate organ, perfectible and respectable as the eye or the ear"
The taste of people has been built with the course of history, and some events have strongly contributed to shape it. Like for example, the arrival in Europe of sugar or spices during the medieval era. Throughout history some flavors appears and others, like bitterness, go out of fashion.
Taste today, is strongly influenced by current times. In a connected, interdependent and frenetic world, we depend on our socio-historical condition to appreciate the flavor.
Aroma, taste and flavor are closely related concepts, however, they have different definitions. Taste and aroma are closely associated with each other, and both are perceived by processes within the areas of the limbic system, which deal with emotions, memories and stimulation.
The aroma is defined as an odor, perceived through the nose and retronasally, and also through the back of the mouth, where the nasal and buccal cavities are interconnected. Taste is the sense experienced by the tongue and describes sensations of saltiness, sweetness, acidity, bitterness or umami. Flavor is defined as a combination of aroma and flavor.
Approximately 850 volatile compounds have been identified that are associated with the flavor in coffee.
Train your limbic system and enjoy your coffee!
The use of fermentation is as old as agriculture itself, which anthropologists estimate began in 8,000 BC. The first experiments that humanity made with fermentation to produce wine date from 7,000 BC in the Middle East. And according to hieroglyphics, the Egyptians in 3,000 BC already used yeast to make bread. In those times the biochemical process of fermentation, responsible for these actions, was seen as something mysterious and even magical.
Only two centuries ago, we began to understand this important process, when in 1854 the French chemist Louis Pasteur determined that fermentation is caused by yeast. In very simple terms, yeast is an unicellular microorganism classified as a fungus, which perform the decomposition of sugars by alcoholic fermentation.
Today, the importance of fermentation and yeast in the production of beverages and food is absolute. Various studies, for example, show that the yeast associated with wine or chocolate fermentation, significantly influences its properties, including its flavour and aroma.
Fortunately, and despite the fact that the microbiota of coffee fermentation is still mysterious and poorly understood, more studies are being conducted to understand the impact of fermentation and yeast on our cup result.
A very interesting study was conducted in 2016 by Dr. Aimee Dudley and her team. They were trying to determine if the specific yeast of coffee was transported through their plants and human activity, or if particular regions of the world harbor these specific populations of yeast?
The results were striking, since it was discovered that unlike wine, the more natural styles of coffee fermentation, have generated several yeast strains with independent origins. It was also found that the strains associated to coffee from specific places, are the result of a mixture of yeast strains from different parts of the world.
Considering that the varieties of yeast found in coffee fermentations are genetically more diverse than those of wine, they could play a much more important role in the development of coffee properties in different parts of the world, or what would be known as the "MICROBIAL TERROIR".
Every coffee farm in the world, even the most reputable one, will produce good and bad quality beans. Therefore, separating the bigger, heavier and denser beans from those lighter and defective ones, is key to maximize the benefit of the farmer.
In Kenya, after a certain lot has been processed, it will be delivered to the Marketing Agent (MA) in parchment by the farmer or cooperative. The MA will then mill and grade the lot by shape and size, and give this particular lot an unique "Outturn Number" (ON), before delivering it to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. This ON system will be crucial to provide transparency and traceability to the system.
The once full lot will have now a unique ON but many different grades, that can go from:
AA (7,2 mm),
AB (6,6 mm),
C (screen 14-15),
E, TT, T, UG, MH, ML; these are just some of the full range of different grades.
According to our experience cupping at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, the best coffees are found always between the grades AA, AB, PB and C. But the system assumes that the bigger the bean the better the cup, but that is not always correct. We have had many times the best cup in the C grade and not in the AA for the same ON.
Anyway, to make our search more efficient, considering the great number of samples and the limited time we have, we focus only in the AA, AB, and PB grades. Through that selective research, the centralized system of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange has allowed us, to discover some hidden jewels from very remote areas of the country, that it would have been impossible to find just travelling around.
In simple words the Nairobi Coffee Exchange works as a weekly Cup of Excellence, stimulating competition and prices for the best lots; and the different grades generate the synergy that provides the best formula for maximizing the benefits of small farmers.
This formula becomes particularly important, in times like this week, when the Coffee Futures in New York plummet to minimums of more than 12 years to 100.4 cts / lb.
Enjoy your Kenya coffee in Barcelona and Santiago!
During the 1960s, to increase the food production around the world, and meet the demands of an extremely quick expanding population, it became imperative to change the methodologies of agriculture.
These initiatives were called "The Green Revolution" and involved the use of high yielding varieties, higher fertilizers dosages, intensive and mono cropping, the development of highly toxic and life damaging pesticides, among others.
After this changes, the food production increased dramatically in the world, and it is said the over 1 billion people were saved from starvation. Today, this very achievement, though remarkable, has costed us dearly in socioeconomic terms for small farmers, reduction of biodiversity, increase of green house emissions and health issues related to the excessive use of pesticides.
According to the World Coffee Research "most African coffee-producing countries produce substantially lower volumes of coffee than elsewhere. This has profound impacts for farmer livelihoods when farmers are paid per pound of cherry. There is a widespread need for replanting with young trees that are resistant to major diseases and pests (including coffee berry disease, coffee leaf rust, antestia bug and stem borer), and with improved varieties. The World Coffee Research believes that over 50% of coffee trees in Africa are more than 50 years old."
In Kenya particularly, we have always selected lots where the cultivars are exclusively SL28 and SL34, because we love the complexity, dense sweetness, citric acidity and the viscosity in the cup of these two varieties. But we understand the unpostponable necessity of experimenting and promoting new varieties with higher yieldings, tolerant to diseases and adaptability to warmer climates.
Our new lot Kabunyeria AB is the first ever lot we source of Ruiru11 and Batian in Kenya. Cultivated in the Kericho county at an average altitude of well over 2000 masl, this lot is cupping great for espresso, very sweet with a full body and a gentle well balanced citric acidity.
We invite you to try it and discover the full potential of Kenyan coffees and its new varieties of the 21st century.
Enjoy your Kenya Kabunyeria AB!