Discovery

The Gakira Estate

While the crisp and ripe washed Kenyan profile is so deeply ingrained in the minds of coffee lovers around the world, the landscape here is slowly changing. There is a new boom of high quality natural Kenyan coffees, a processing method normally associated with low-quality coffee for consumption by producers; effectively seen as a by-product. There is also an ever greater awareness of the resources required to create these bombastic washed profiles, both in terms of water and fertiliser usage. This month’s subscription coffees come from a project which champions the production of high quality naturals, and aims to create the same high quality washed profiles, without the intense resource requirement.

To understand these coffees, it is important to understand the unique context in which they are produced; what makes this estate in Kenya such a special coffee origin?

1 x coffee
Gakira - Washed SL28 (250g / 8.8oz)

2 x coffee
Gakira - Washed SL28 (250g / 8.8oz)
Gakira - Natural SL18 (250g / 8.8oz)

Discovery

How coffee is grown in Kenya

John Michuki produces coffee on the Gakira Estate in the region of Kitisuru, not far outside Nairobi. Gakira sits at 1800 masl, not far from the border with Kiambu, where we have purchased a few lots in the past. He recently took over the land that has been in his family for several generations, and now runs day to day operations with his mother. He previously worked in oil and gas, but left to follow a more sustainability-focussed career, joining a wave of Kenyan coffee producers aiming to reduce the environmental impact of their industry. Bringing his engineering experience, as well as his years of experience on the farm together with his mother, John is now working with Belco’s ‘Hands On Coffee’ project to create coffee in a less impactful way.

Due to the dominance of the washed process in Kenya, and the many floating, sorting and soaking steps often used, the water usage here is incredibly high, much higher per kilo of coffee produced than any other country we buy coffee from. Kenyan cooperatives also often have affiliations with large fertiliser companies, giving members subsidised and direct access to chemical fertilisers and pesticides, meaning these are often used to a very high degree in the Kenyan coffee lands. The system of grading, where large bean ‘AA’ lots fetch the highest prices, also lead many producers to fertilise very aggressively in order to grow larger fruit, and therefore increase their income. All of this leads to a great deal of contaminated waste water from processing, and fertiliser runoff from farmlands. If not dealt with carefully, this can be catastrophic for vital Kenyan groundwater supplies.

Improving conditions

This is part of what the Hands On Coffee project aims to change. They often work with individual producers rather than on a cooperative level, meaning less influence from large fertiliser companies, and more traceability. Furthermore, they are championing the natural process as a method of increasing quality, creating a point of difference in a washed coffee dominated market, which in theory leads to higher prices.

They have implemented much more careful drying processes both for washed and natural lots, with the project financing expanded drying beds, plastic protection from rains and high sun, and moisture meters for consistency. The importance of ventilation and temperature control during drying was emphasised using this new equipment, leading to more consistently and carefully dried coffees. This is a huge factor in processing especially natural coffees, alongside a constant need for sorting and harvesting consistently ripe fruit.

Small Steps

Kenyan coffee production is some of the most environmentally costly in the world. The crispness that the ripe washed Kenyan profile is so known for can also be found in the coffee that we have selected for this month's subscription. A natural coffee of this quality from Kenya is made possible with all of these seemingly small interventions during production and drying processes. However small, they are impactful, both for the local environment but also for the consistency in quality of the green bean, benefitting both the producer and the coffee enthusiast. Buying from a single estate like John Michuki's is different than buying from the cooperatives in Kenya in many ways. The picking and selection of berries is still one of the biggest factors for flavour, and here the producer has more power in choosing which varietals and berries qualify for a certain price range of coffee. With the subsidies and guidance from a project like Hands On Coffee, the farm and workers are not dependant on increased yield from each coffeee tree.

First coffee

Gakira - Washed SL28

Crisp red berries by John Michuki

John Michuki produces some exceptionally clean and crisp expressions of Kenyan terroir at Gakira, which is planted with mainly SL28, and a small amount of the rust resistant Ruiru 11 hybrid. The first coffee this month is a red fruit-driven washed lot, with a delicate tea-like finish. Gakira sits at 1800 masl, not far from the border with Kiambu, where we have purchased a few lots in the past. Bringing his engineering experience, as well as his years of experience on the farm together with his mother, John is now working with Belco’s ‘Hands On Coffee’ project to create coffee in a less impactful way.

Second Coffee

Gakira - Natural SL28

Rich confected fruit by John Michuki

The second coffee this month is a rich natural grown on the same trees, with the fruit notes softened into confected purple fruit, complemented by a deep caramelised sweetness.

Discovery

Memorable flavour experiences

While the crisp and ripe washed Kenyan profile is so deeply ingrained in the minds of coffee lovers around the world, the landscape here is slowly changing. There is a new boom of high quality natural Kenyan coffees, a method normally associated with low-quality coffee for consumption by producers; effectively seen as a by-product. There is also an ever greater awareness of the resources required to create these bombastic washed profiles, both in terms of water and fertiliser usage. This month’s subscription coffees come from a project which champions the production of high quality naturals, and aims to create the same high quality washed profiles, without the intense resource requirement.

About Discovery

The opportunity to share new experiences

Our Discovery Subscription allows us the opportunity to share new experiences with you every month, taking you with us on our journey through the changing seasons of coffee. This allows you the opportunity to taste new lots from across the coffee landscape as they arrive at our roastery, when they’re fresh and in season. We strive to find the most delicious and thought-provoking coffees we can get our hands on, working together with a group of innovative and dedicated partners we have met over our years in the industry. We are inspired not only by sharing their painstakingly created raw material, but by conveying how each step of its journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.

We always aim to tell a story

One of the best ways to appreciate the effect of these factors is to taste coffees side by side. Our most popular option allows you to experience two coffees every month, maybe different varietals or processes from the same farm or region, or maybe two parallel lots from producers at opposite ends of the coffee belt. We always aim to tell a story with our coffee choice, focusing on a different aspect of what we’re finding exciting in coffee right now. Sharing these experiences each month allows us to expand our coffee horizons together, and develop a shared vocabulary within both taste and preference in coffee.

We’re always happy to continue our conversation with you through our webshop portal, whether it be purely practical, or discussions about this month’s coffees. We see our role as simply a middleman between you and some of the best coffees in the world, and the people who produce them. These people inspire us, and we do our utmost to share both their coffees and their stories with the people who appreciate them most.

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