When it comes to the selection of Ethiopian coffees, the possibilities of flavours, fragrances, and aromas are virtually endless. Cup profiles are so varied that most importers or roasters do not expect a specific profile for an Ethiopian coffee. The same does not hold for origins such as Kenya or Sumatra, where roasters are looking for berries or chocolate, respectively.
From a sensorial perspective, the acidity of Ethiopian coffees is as diverse as the number of acid components that a coffee bean has. Like sweetness, cleanliness and texture, acidity is fundamental in our sensory analysis and selection work. It is important to note that in the long journey of coffee from the plant to the cup, the acidity and all the sensorial attributes can be modified, enhanced, damaged or eliminated.
Pseudoscience is a tendency to make claims without any scientific basis. For example, anti-vaccine activism can cause people to forego proven medical treatments, which can lead to death or serious health problems.
In our beloved industry, unfortunately, we often come across "pseudo-scientists" who make assertions that are not based on scientific methodology, but rather are based on "coffee mythology" (if such a thing exists), or ideas that are more fabrication of the industry, than serious scientific studies regarding a given topic.
Let's take the concept of a cup profile for a minute. How on earth, could someone assure what the cup profile of a given origin is?
To be or not to be ... The diversity of possible cup profiles is practically infinite, as coffee is a living product, many times we find flavours, aromas or sensations that we cannot associate with past experiences. And this is particularly true with experimental processed lots.
But from a professional and objective point of view, are all coffees with experimental processes good coffees?
Every coffee farm in the world, even the most reputable one, will produce good, medium and bad quality beans. Therefore, separating the better, bigger and denser beans from those lighter and defective, is key to maximize the financial result of the producer.
In Kenya, after a certain lot has been processed, it will be delivered to the Marketing Agent (MA) in parchment by the producer or cooperative. The MA then, will mill and grade the lot by shape and size, and give this lot an unique "Outturn Number" (ON), before delivering a sample to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. This ON will be crucial to provide transparency and traceability to the system.
1. What is memory?
Memory is the process through which we obtain, store, retain and access information. Human beings are capable of perceiving reality through experiences, which we classify and store. This process allow us to survive, cause if we were not able to access past experiences to decode the new ones, we would be living each day in a constant chaotic state of wonder, terror, happiness or stress. Memory in simple words, simplifies our life and balances our central nervous system.
"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.
Microlot, direct trade, single origin, origin trip, nanolot, among others; are terms that are being repeatedly used in the specialty coffee industry today.
A microlot is a term that designates not only a small volume of coffee production, but also designates a selectively hand-picked coffee, from a particular cultivar, in a specific farm or micro-region, within a certain altitude range and processed separately; or at least a combination of some of the above. In summary, it's the result of some concerted effort to separate and carefully prepare a quantity of coffee that will have special characteristics.
Each year we are receiving more and more samples from producers and cooperatives in many origins around the world. This is very exciting, but also represents a challenge in terms of time and resources we need to dedicate to analyze and evaluate each of them fairly and effectively.
This year from Burundi only, we received 51 samples from 4 different cooperatives we had the chance to visit last June.
Finally, evaluation through blind cupping allows us to judge the potential, identify the defects and select the best samples. It is the most influential tool when deciding which coffees will be travelling to our warehouse and going into your roasters very soon.
Enjoy your Burundi coffee!
Kenya is divided into 47 counties, and in only 18 coffee is produced.
Nyeri and Kirinyaga are definitely the most popular counties for traders and roasters in origin. As a consequence of the above, they are also the ones that obtain the highest prices in the auctions of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
So the million dollar question is: why Kiambu does not have the same relevance as its neighbors in the specialty coffee market?
And the answer is not as obvious as you might think.
If we analyze the type of cultivars used in the three counties, we find that the most common cultivated varietes (between 90 and 95%) are SL28 and SL34, which are as we have said, the ones that produce the best quality in the cup.
Let's look at the altitude, the average range of altitude in the cultivated areas is higher in Kiambu with 1860masl, followed by Nyeri with 1760m and Kirinyaga with 1605m.
Rain patterns. In the three counties are also similar, there are bimodal rain patterns which brings two wet seasons a year (therefore 2 flowerings and two harvests a year), with annual rainfall averages of 953 mm for Nyeri, 1098 mm for Kiambu and 1518 mm for Kirinyaga .
The composition of the soils is similar in all three counties. They are all red volcanic soils, rich in nutrients and organic matter.
And the processing method, exactly the same, fully washed process with double fermentation and sundried on African beds.
The only fundamental difference lies in the annual production of smallholders (who are the ones that produce the microlots we are all seeking for) and their respective cooperatives. Nyeri being the first of the country with 6630 Tons., which represents 21% of the total production, second is Kirinyaga with 5870 Tons., representing an 18.5% and sixth is Kiambu with 2560 Tons., representing a 8% of the total country. (Statistics provided by the Kenya Coffee Board for 2012)
From the above we can conclude that the success of the "trademark" Nyeri and Kirinyaga in detriment of Kiambu, is due exclusively to a matter of quantity and therefore overexposure in international markets, and not to the potential to produce quality. From a macro perspective, the various factors influencing high quality production are virtually identical in all three counties.
To finish, just say that it is undeniable that in Nyeri and Kirinyaga there are exceptional lots, but they are also in Kiambu; It's just a matter of seek, discover and blind cupping!
Enjoy your coffee ... from Kiambu