Kenya Gichathaini OT-18
The Gichathaini Factory (mill) is part of the Gikanda Cooperative inside the famed Nyeri region of central Kenya. The Gikanda Cooperative also runs three other mills within the area, and they lie on the slope of Mt Kenya. It serves around 3200 members and has one of the highest rates of female producers. Most of the producers are small-hold farmers some having less than 100 trees on their land. This is our first time purchasing from the Gichathaini Factory. We have cupped offerings from the mill for the past few years on our annual trips to Nairobi, but the timing never worked out on the outturns to purchase.
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 direct-sale system with a marketer. 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 on. 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.
This year coffee production was down about 25% in Kenya. This means the auction system for the coffees that cupped higher reached almost unprecedented levels. While this does mean our Kenyans will be a bit more expensive this year, it also meant less competition for us. And we were able to purchase quite a few more lots than we normally do. This is our personal best year of sourcing in Kenya. We are really excited to release some special lots all year long.
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 certain size 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 - Chemex
55g Coffee : 900g Water 208°F
~5:30 Drain Time
More Kenyan coffee! This tasty outturn (OT) is just as bright as we expect from a Kenyan coffee, but also very sweet and smooth. We enjoyed the Chemex for its shareability, and a metal filter (if you have one) really enhances the body of the cup. If you don’t have a metal filter, no worries, traditional Chemex filters will still provide a striking cup profile. You’ll notice we set our water a little higher than usual. The reason we did this was to ensure we extracted enough sugars and didn’t lose as much heat during this larger brew. Look for that tart and warm black currant to come up front followed by citrus and plenty of brown sugar sweetness lingering into the aftertaste. If under-extracted expect a very sour cup that is also a little grassy. If over-extracted look for muddled acidity and a drying, rather than mouthwatering and sweet, aftertaste.
ESPRESSO - Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 seconds to 4 seconds - line pressure, from 4 seconds - 9 bars
20g in : ~ 50g out @ ~24 seconds
This Kenya makes a great espresso. We expected to have to battle to tame the acidity, but the sweetness popped and made for a surprisingly balanced shot. Grapefruit moves to the forefront with brown sugar turning warmer with black currant and cherry as the flavors continue. If under-extracted this shot was thick and sour/salty. If over-extracted this was still pretty good but turned to a bitter drying cocoa powder aftertaste that wasn’t nearly as fun as the dialed-in version.
This is a Relationship Coffee that we purchased this coffee through our friends at Dormans Coffee in Nairobi. They took our offer to Gichathaini Factory of $5.50 per pound, which they accepted. Dormans takes a small fee for negotiating the price as per registered Kenya Coffee Marketing. We paid $4.97 per pound total FOB and cupped the coffee at an 89. We also partnered with our long-time friends, Ally Coffee to bring the coffee stateside and paid an additional .40¢ per pound of logistics to move the coffee to the states. This was by far the smoothest contract that we have had in Kenya to date. Raphael (Dormans) and Michael (Ally) were extremely helpful in getting the coffee moving quickly during a tumultuous time in Kenya.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $1.10/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 from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds 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 final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage up front 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.