Kenya Gachatha OT-18
Cupping at Dormans is a unique experience, to say the least. They’ve recently built a very large cupping lab and dry mill just outside Nairobi. If you’re lucky enough to catch a thirty-minute Uber to their offices, you will be met by the well-oiled machine that is Dormans Coffee. Hundreds of coffees are roasted, cupped, and logged there each day by some very talented and kind people. At any point during harvest, you will find a handful of over-caffeinated green buyers scanning their notes and passing over a table with 60+ coffees on it. This year, we had the chance to visit our new friend Muki at Dormans early in the harvest. During that time, we were able to calibrate and partner with the Dormans cupping team in order to find the coffees and the profiles we enjoy. Months later, we had a return visit to cup, tasting coffees that Muki and the team at Dormans picked out for us out of both the catalog as well as their direct relationships. Out of those coffees, I selected four lots that will become our Kenyan offerings this year. Our friends at Dormans have been kind enough to buy a few coffees by direct sale (See Kenya Auctions below), and this year these coffees were exemplary.
GACHATHA FARMERS COOPERATIVE SOCIETY
The Gachatha Farmers Cooperative Society is made up of about 1300 farmers. Jane Nyawira has managed their wet mill (factory) for over 12 years now. It is rare to see a manager work for such a long time and shows that dedication and consistency always help provide a great cup. Located 100 miles north of Nairobi, the cooperative is in the famous coffee growing region of Nyeri. There they utilize the elevation of the Aberdare Mountains and water from the Kangunu river. This station has consistently produced incredibly sweet, complex, bright coffees, and we continue to ask marketers and reps to bid on these at the auction on our behalf.
Kenya has a pretty advanced coffee system. Two avenues are used to sell and export most coffee: the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (central auction system) and a marketer direct-sale system. Cooperatives tend to lean towards the first and use the auction system to sell their coffees based on quality. You must be a licensed marketer to buy coffee through the competitive auction system by bidding on coffees. Auctions are held every Tuesday with samples of the coffees going out to the marketers and cuppers the week prior. This way, you can cup the outturns for the week and decide which coffees you wish to bid. An outturn refers to the week of wet milling and production of coffee. You’ll see a number next to all our Kenya lots which describe which outturn it was. We tend to like outturns between 14-21, which are in the middle to the end of harvest time and usually have the most nutrient-dense and best-tasting coffees.
In the Kenya process, first, the cherries are sorted, and under-ripe/overripe cherries are removed. Once the sorting is finished, the coffee is then depulped. This is done by squeezing the cherry through a screen and removing the fruit and skin from the bean. The coffee is then left to ferment in white ceramic tiled tanks for 24 hours. Next, the coffee is stirred for a short amount of time and left to ferment for another 24 hours. After two days of dry fermentation, the coffee is washed with fresh water, removing the sticky mucilage attached to the beans that are loosened by bacteria during the fermentation. It’s then soaked in water to ferment overnight slightly. The coffee goes through sorting and density channels, which separates the lots, and then it is taken to raised beds to dry. Once it reaches 11.5-12% moisture content, the coffee is brought to conditioning bins to rest until it goes to the dry mill.
Once a coffee has been processed, dried, and then milled, it goes to a sorter that separates the beans by specific characteristics, mainly size. Coffee goes into a machine that vibrates, sending beans through different screens with different-sized holes and sorts the coffee based on size and density. This results in a more uniform coffee and cup profile. Then the coffees are auctioned based on the grade (size & density) they have.
AA (screen size 17 & 18)
The largest and most celebrated grade of Kenyan coffee. Usually the highest priced coffee on the auction from each outturn and factory. AA is is the most common grade we buy and what we normally expect from an outstanding Kenya cup.
AB (screen size 15 & 16)
This grade represents about 30% of Kenya production. While AB is usually considered lower quality than AA, we find that to not be accurate in the cup. Over the years of cupping, we have consistently found incredible AB’s that actually cup better than their more prestigious AA relatives, enforcing the idea that everything must be cupped and not have its value determined based on classification or reputation.
Peaberries represents about 10% of Kenya production. They are a result of a coffee cherry only producing one bean instead of two. Technically they are fused together during early stages and form one round bean instead of two half spheres. We tend to notice more fermentation tasting notes here. Winey, syrupy, and mouth coating are some of the attributes that we usually notice in the cup.
E (large Peaberries & large chipped beans)
C (screen size 14 & 15)
TT (falls through 14)
T (small or broken pieces of beans)
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER – Kalita Wave Dripper #185
25g Coffee : 400g Water 205°F
Gachatha was one of our most popular offerings last year, both retail and with our baristas. Bright and complex, we loved the Kalita recipe for giving us a little more texture and accentuating the sweetness and acidity of this coffee. If this coffee drains too quickly, under-extracts, it tastes tart and weak. If this coffee drains too slowly, over-extracts, it tastes herbal and a little unctuous, not overly unpleasant but a bit on the herbal, savory side.
ESPRESSO – Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 sec to 4 sec - line pressure, from 4 sec till done - 9 bars
20g in : 50g out @ 27s
This Kenya coffee is a treat on espresso. It tastes like skittles, raw honey, and sugarcane juice. It’s plenty strong to carry through milk pretty well, but is bright and can be polarizing in beverages. If this shot pulls too quickly, under-extracts, it is overwhelmingly bright and herbal. If this shot pulls too long, over-extracts, it is pithy and unpleasant with a chalky medicinal finish.
Kenya Gachatha OT-18
This Relationship Coffee that we purchased this coffee through our friends at Dormans Coffee in Nairobi. This is a direct-sale coffee purchased through Dormans from Gachatha. We paid $4.50 per pound to Gachatha and cupped the coffee at an 88. Once stateside, this 35 bag lot landed at $5.39 per pound once we paid for milling, Grain Pro, and import fees. Finally, we partnered with our friends at Atlantic Special Coffee to bring in all four lots from Dormans this year.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $1.09/lb when we purchased this coffee.
- The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
* We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out of the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as the final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage upfront upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.