Muthingi-ini - Embu - AA
Variety SL-28, SL-34, Batian, Ruiru 11
Region : Kirinyaga
Altitude: 1310–1900 masl
Farm : Various smallholder farmer members of Rama Farmers Cooperative Society
Roasting date: always up to date
Kenya Embu A A
Muthigi-ini Factory is operated by the Rama Farmers Cooperative Society, which has about 2,800 total active members and operates two factories. The membership of this F.C.S. represent just 263 total hectares of coffee land.
Coffee in Kenya is typically traceable down to the factory, or mill level: Most farmers own between 1/8 to 1/4 of a hectare, and often grow crops other than coffee as well, which means they rely on a central processing unit for sale and processing of their coffee. Producers deliver in cherry form to a factory, where the cooperative will sort, weigh, and issue payment for the delivery. The coffee is then blended with the rest of the day's deliveries and goes on to be processed. Because of this system, which serves many hundreds to several thoughts of smallholder farmers per factory, there is limited traceability down to the individual producers whose coffee comprises the lots.
CUP CHARACTERISTICS + VARIETIES
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Kenyan coffee is “acidity,” but what we are looking for is not simply mouth-puckering brightness or one-note citric acid. Generally, we seek out complex, refined cups that show black currant, grapefruit or kaffir lime, mouthwatering notes of tomato or tamarind, and sparkling tropical fruit like pineapple. The famous SL varieties—SL-28 and SL-34—tend to be juicy and dynamic, while French Mission is typically a more creamy and citric cup.
In addition to variety differences, regional variations exist as with most large coffee-growing countries. Nyeri’s coffees tend to have more fructose sugar, juicy mouthfeel, and strong tart acids. Embu’s profile is more complex, with generally the darker forest fruit, more browned sugars, and overall a bit more balance. Kirinyaga shows the more floral and delicate cups, generally a more refined quality and complexity.
A note about Kenyan “classic” varieties: The “SL” in SL-28 and SL-34 stands for Scot Laboratories, which was hired in the 1930s to undertake a series of selections and tests on Kenyan coffee varieties in order to determine which had the greatest potential for success, both in terms of quality and cultivation. Scientists identified more than 40 trees of different types, giving them a number with “SL” for classification—these varieties are considered selections, not, strictly speaking “hybrids,” though many of them were the genetic offspring of cross-pollinated types and spliced cultivars.
A more modern variety and a direct result of hybridization is Ruiru 11, which is a combination of Timor Hybrid variety (an interspecific hybrid of Arabica and Robusta) and Rume Sudan, a cultivar that is resistant to coffee-berry disease, which is a common plight in the country. Ruiru 11 has been available for sale since 1986.
PROCESSING + PREP
Aside from the varieties grown in the country, and the altitudes that range from 1,400 to more than 2,000 meters above sea level, the special processing that most Kenyan coffees undergoes is part of what contributes to its particular flavor profile.
Here’s a general breakdown of how processing happens in Kenya (though, truthfully, there is no one “standard” for how a factory or washing station handles its coffee): Farmers will bring their cherry to the factory, where it is weighed and put into the hopper with the rest of that day’s collection. (The farmer is given a receipt for the value of the coffee.) The coffee is depulped using one of two types of equipment: A single-disc depulper, which directs all of the coffee into a single fermentation tank, or a pre-grader/multi-disc depulper, which uses multiple water tanks to pre-sort the coffees by density before and after the depulping, which allows the smaller grades to be depulped again as needed. The single-disc depulping is more common at estates than at the factories.
Factories will ferment every grade of parchment coffee dry in its mucilage for 24–48 hours, then move the coffee through water channels to separate washing tanks, where the softened mucilage is sloughed off. Premium AA lots are sometimes sent to holding takes to be submerged underwater for an additional 24 hours.
The tanks are drained, and the coffee is given a quick “pre-dry,” or “skin dry,” laid out in full sunlight in thin layers on raised beds for about six hours; this is to prevent the parchment from cracking. The beans are then moved to raised beds where they are spread in thicker layers, and allowed to dry for 7–10 days. The coffee is typically dried to 11–12% moisture.