Krampus - An "Unfriendly" Onyx Holiday Origin
Located in central Kenya, the Kamviiu Coffee Factory has over one thousand small-holder farmers delivering to the factory. The farmers belong to the Gakundu Farmers Cooperative Society, where most grow tea and coffee as their main crops. Coffee is delivered the same day after harvest, where it is depulped and washed with fresh water from the Muriuriu River. Their washed process creates a clean and bright profile. When this coffee is roasted lighter, it’s juicy with notes of red apple and berries and an intriguing ginger note. When roasted as Krampus, the notes of apple and berries deepen to complex dark chocolate and grapefruit, and the ginger note transforms to warming cinnamon.
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. During my two day visit, I cupped a total of 408 coffees. My usual number of coffees I taste at origin is around 60-100, so this is substantially more. Out of those coffees, I selected just 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.
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's 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 represent about 10% of Kenya's production. They are a result of a coffee cherry only producing one bean instead of two. Technically they are fused together during the 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
24g Coffee : 400g Water 205°F
~3:45 Drain Time
2019's "Unfriendly" holiday origin comes, once again, from Kenya. Think burnt sugar with full-bodied grapefruit and dark chocolate with slightly spicy cinnamon lingering throughout, turning to a pleasant dark chocolate and cinnamon aftertaste. We employed the Kalita Wave brewer on our own bars for this coffee because it highlights the smooth texture this coffee has. As "naughty" as this coffee is, it's nice to brew. The extra caramelization that it undergoes gives it more sweetness and less acidity than a traditional Kenyan offering. Easy to under extract, you'll likely need to grind finer if you taste pithy tart citrus and salty burnt notes. If the coffee drains too long, over-extracts, the coffee it'll be overwhelmingly bitter and drying.
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
19g in : ~50g out @ ~26s
This espresso needed to be ground finer than usual for espresso. It wants to drain fast but was well worth the wait to dial-in. As an espresso, the flavors morph from grapefruit to candied orange with the dark chocolate and clove remaining. There's also sweet, burnt chocolate throughout. This espresso has a lot of soluble material that carries through milk quite nicely. As a cappuccino, it was like chocolate orange with a slight baking spice aftertaste. The sweetness of the milk helps carry the flavors through larger milk drinks as well. Expect a great holiday coffee. Easy to under extract, you'll likely need to grind finer if you taste pithy tart citrus and salty toast notes. If the shot pulls too long, over-extracts, the coffee was tart and burnt/bitter tasting.
This Relationship Coffee what we purchased this coffee through our friends at Dormans Coffee in Nairobi. We paid $5.14 per pound total and cupped the coffee at an 87.5, purchasing eighteen 60-kilo bags. We partnered with our friends at Royal New York to bring in all four lots from Dormans.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $0.99/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 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 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.