This month, we are excited to share two examples of our favourite coffee origins. At this time of year, we are able to reflect on some of our favourite coffee experiences this year, and showcase new examples of our sourcing work, in very different circumstances.
First, a coffee from Costa Rica. This is where our first direct trade relationships were forged, and we are always excited to fly there to visit our favourite producers year on year. Our internal favourite, the Natural Catuai from Mauricio at Altos was singing again this year, as subscribers will remember from their October box. But we also have other relationships in Costa Rica, we have brought in a juicy Kenyan-like SL28 from a Cup of Excellence winning farm, and an intensely aromatic Typica from another mill, further north in the Central Valley. This month we are excited to share an excellent example of Costa Rican coffee, from the Granitos De Altura mill that we visited on our first trip to Costa Rica in 2014. We have been buying from Omar and his family for several years, and visited him again in March this year. The fact that the lot we have purchased is of the revered Geisha varietal is an extra treat, adding light floral aromatics into an already sweet and clean honey-processed experience. The second coffee in your box comes from another of our favourite origins, Kenya. The way we buy coffee in Kenya is very different to Costa Rica, where we have met farmers and know exactly which small part of the field a lot of coffee came from, often even the day it was picked. Kenya is very different, and in some ways more difficult. Smallholder farmers deliver ripe cherries to a mill where they are graded and processed, so instead of the output of a single farm or day’s picking, we buy the output of a coffee mill, or factory as they are often known in Kenya. The managers that run these mills are therefore very important, overseeing important stages such as sorting, fermentation and drying is vital to control the green coffee quality. Huge demand for Kenyan coffee has meant many mills have tried to increase their production, and without careful management this can lead to reduced quality. This is part of the reason that we feel this year’s Kenyans haven’t been as strong as the heights of 2014 and 2015 harvest coffees, but there have been some highlights. We had an astounding experience with the Mugaya from our friends at Drop in Stockholm, and our Riakiberu has had flashes of clean syrupy sweet deliciousness, especially over the last few weeks. We have also been excited by our final Kenyan of the year, which you are receiving this month. Gatomboya is showing off the blackcurrant jam character we love in Kenyan coffees, the balance between juicy berry acidity and deep rich sweetness. There are also sweet rosehip florals in the aroma, and interesting grape like finish, almost giving a red wine character.
Gatomboya comes from a local dialect word meaning swamp, referring to the damp area around the Kirigu river, that runs by the washing station. This is the name given to this coffee factory, one of four owned by the Barichu Farmers Cooperative Society. The factory was initially built in 1987 under a different society, but became part of Barichu in 1996. There are currently just under 700 active members delivering cherry to the mill, which produces around 450 tonnes of green coffee every year. The factory is located just outside the town of Karatina, in the Nyeri region, close to the border with Kirinyaga.
This is the third year we have bought Geisha from the micro mill Granitos de Altura. The mill is owned by Omar Calderon and his family, and lies just outside the town of Santa Maria de Dota, in the Tarrazu region. We have visited Omar several times, and dined with him and his family at their house, located next to the mill, high in the Talamanca Sierra, overlooking the beautiful Los Quetzales National Park. They have several small farms scattered around the mill, effectively creating one larger farm. This Geisha comes from cherries grown at Ortiz 2000, named for its high altitude, reaching over 2000 masl. Omar then takes the ripe Geisha cherries and processes them at Granitos, using the white honey method. This involves leaving a small amount of flesh on the seed during drying, adding sweetness and fruit tones to the cup, but aiming to maintain a very clean representation of the Geisha varietal. Buying Geisha from Omar allows us to pay a high price for the coffee, over 22 times the current market price. This is a comfortable and clean expression of Geisha, heavy sweet, with citrus zest and soft white florals of magnolia and white rose.
So this month, we hope you enjoy two contrasting highlights. One from a country where we have more firm and personal relationships, and one where we have to work around a different system, while always looking for the finest coffees from each.
From everyone at La Cabra, we’d like to wish you a Happy Christmas, and hope that you can enjoy these coffees with those you love this time of year. We’ll be back with more bright coffee experiences next year.
Stay bright and curious