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This is a slightly strange lot when compared to one produced by a large Kenyan co-operative. In
the place of thousands of smallholder farmers, this lot is grown on 20 small estates located
throughout the area around Mukurweini town, working together under the name ‘Mukurweini
Farmers’. These farmers rely on coffee as their primary cash crop, alongside some small plots of
tea. Each has been supported in creating their own small wet mill to process their own coffee
before delivering it to the Kahawa Bora mill, about 80 km south of Mukurweini town, right on the
border between Muranga and Kiambu counties. A project by exporter Kenyacof, recently renamed to
Sucafina Kenya, Kahawa Bora translates as ‘excellent coffee’. The mill aims to work with these
medium-sized farmers, with lands larger than the average co-operative farmer, but not quite a
fully-fledged estate. This is rather exciting for traceability in Kenya, meaning smaller lots
from individual plots of land can be processed and kept separate all the way to us. This also
leads to greater ease of quality control and forward progress; it is far easier to keep track of
and give advice on the farming practices of 20 farmers, rather than thousands. It has already
led to higher levels of traceability for the Mukurweini farmers, for example we can tell you
this lot is 80% SL28 and 34, 15% Ruiru 11 and 5% Batian. This lot is rather different from the
one we purchased from this group last year, with a lower intensity of mouthfeel and acidity.
Here we are finding a more delicate cup, with ripe raspberry flavours joined by floral tea notes
and a crisp citric acidity.
When we choose to share a coffee, it’s because we feel it showcases clear character in the cup,
the origin of which can be traced back through the coffee chain. We are inspired not only by
sharing this carefully and deliberately created raw material, but by conveying how each step of
the coffee’s journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest
processing, or something else entirely.
We roast with a gentle touch in order to unveil these characteristics with the highest level of
clarity. Be it a dense, high-grown heirloom varietal from Ethiopia, or a lower-grown Bourbon
from Brazil, we always aim for this same clarity, and write taste notes as an introduction as to
what to expect from the raw material. We would expect higher acidity and a lower body from
Ethiopia, so would use notes such as citrus fruits and tea to describe this. From Brazil, we are
more likely to use notes such as chocolate and nuts; to convey the heavy, sweet character and
pleasant dryness we expect from lower-grown coffees.
About La Cabra
A focus on raw material
If we don’t feel that a coffee suits our style or what we like to present, we simply won’t buy it. Sometimes this leads to issues in green buying; we have to pay very close attention, to a level of green quality that will support this approach, and to how this will develop over the life of a coffee. We are required to focus heavily on the freshness of coffee, both green and roasted, to avoid introducing taints into our cups. We always use clean and fresh water, of an ideal mineral content to present the coffee in its best possible light. Once we have the correct roasting profile, water, and coffee age, the act of brewing is much more simple. A wide variance in brewing parameters can still produce delicious and transparent cups. It is also important to note that this is not always the most consistent approach. The coffee is laid completely bare, so any flaw with the raw material is clearly on show. We could often develop some coffees slightly more, to make them more approachable or easy to work with, but wavering from our philosophy like this would compromise our commitment to complete transparency in coffee.
The washed process involves completely removing both the cherry and the mucilage from the outside of the parchment with the use of friction, fermentation and water. After being harvested, the coffee cherry is then sliced open by either a metal or a sharp plastic blade. The two seeds (also known as beans) are pushed out of the cherry, which leaves the seed with mucilage as their outermost layer. It is essential in the washed process that all mucilage is removed from the seed which leaves only the flavor that developed in the cell structure of the seed prior to processing.
You can brew our coffees any way you want it is just a matter of the right ratios.