Day one Nairobi, Kenya
The red eye gave me no chance for a wink, but I was lucky enough to get some early morning nap time before heading out of the city to see an animal preserve for giraffes in a sub-district of Nairobi called Karen. We then headed a few miles away to see Karen Blixen’s house, the women who was portrayed in the Sydney Pollock movie “Out of Africa”. Then we took a quick jaunt over to Mamba, an animal sanctuary for crocodiles and ostrich’s, where I witnessed a young man poke sticks at 12-14 ft. male crocs to get them to hiss. At least that was my take as I clung to the guard rail. Afterwards, we moved on to slower, kinder things: I held a 2 year old croc in my hands while the driver and our guide Sammie toiled with my iPhone for a snap or two that seemed to take an eternity. Wildlife handling is just not in my blood. By this time, it became clear that it must have been a Sunday and the offices of our exporter coffee group were closed and I had to make like a tourist or end up falling prey to jet lag. Luckily, tourism won out.
Day two, Dorman’s cupping lab
We ran through close to 160 cupping samples: AAs, ABs and many PB grades. The morning tables produced a few great samples, especially from groups such as Ngunguru, Kora, Kihuyo (from Muthega factory), Gichathaini, Ndimani and Ndaroini. At the end, we realized that we hadn’t tasted the previous week’s selection of our fondest coffee: Gatomboya, Gaturiri, Kagumoini, Kangunu, Ngunguru or any of the other Kenya standouts that we look for at Stumptown. All in all, there were about 13 that had showed some promise. After cupping for 9 hours straight, I felt a little dejected and worried we might not find the beauties I was hoping to find. This led to calls for a big meal, so we went for a feast at Curry In a Hurry which, later in the meal, was coined Curry not in a Hurry, which was just fine with us. This was a bastion of amazing Indian styles from the southern regions.
At 3 am I was already up and clamoring for more samples. I hoped for bright and silky coffees that would display deep toned body, floral nuance, citrus that holds high tannin, nectarine, peach, currant and marked by the rare and often sought jasmine. Cupping in Kenya is as close to coffee heaven as you can get. The range and intensity speak for themselves, and this morning I’m ready for another full day of sweetness and vibrancy. Fingers crossed we get there.
We cupped through some Gatomboya, Gaturiri and a few other standbys. We found two, if not three, stellar coffees. Karatu showed some promise with its floral, pine and jasmine aromatics, followed by apricot, white pepper, lemon balm, white grape and tones of cleanly washed Yirgacheffe. Karatu is from the Thika area, with elevations around 1,700 meters. The Ngunguru Peaberry was amazing with its fresh butter, hints of lime, currant, bergamot and a long spiced finish. Pretty sick. The Peaberry Ngunguru has the promise of cracking the 90s.
Last year seems to loom as the year of small output, high prices and excellent quality. We will see how things progress, but most Kenya predictions are for modest prices, good to hopeful for us, and some potential Grand Crus.