They got Lions and tigers only in Kenya

I Like this time of year. Not because the birds are singing or that the days are getting longer, not even that I can start venturing int beer gardens of my favourite hostelries. No its the time of year that we see lots of new coffees arriving in warehouse, and in particular Kenyans – the roasters favourite. (ask most coffee roasters their favourite origin and Kenya’s always up there. )

Year on year we have been buying Kenyans from the cupping table from how they taste and score against our knowledge of what Kenya can produce. This is a great way to find quality coffee, but we often found that there would be a new relationship to start up every time we did this, a new farm to get to understand and new coffee to learn to roast. Its hard to add value to a new relationship every year. Like any relationship, the real benefits come when you get to know each other, and understand each others needs and the mutual respect and friendship that gets built that way

So two years ago, I went to Kenya to see two people we had worked with in the past and see if we could work on a longer term basis. I had set a goal of working in two very different regions and with two very different producers. I wanted to work in Nyeri and in Thika, two places I have had exceptional coffee from, and I wanted to buy from an estate and from a coop. Estates are on the decline in Kenya, and coops are notoriously hard to work with, but I love a challenge.

So my trip began in Thika, the Birmingham of Kenya (who wants to be the Birmingham of anywhere?Even Birmingham doesn’t want to be the Birmingham of the UK )

 

Unknown
Thika is an industrial town in Kiambu County, Kenya, lying on the A2 road 25miles to the north east of Nairobi, where the Thika and Chania Rivers meet. The town has changed rapidly over the past years, with many of the once amazing coffee estates (any one remember Gethumbwini) having been turned from farm land to gated communities for wealthy people from Nairobi to live and commute to the more dangerous city and for their family to have a more safe and secure life.

Back in 2010 I first had Kiriga from Thika on a cupping table, and loved it, but like all our Kenyans back then we never got to see it again. Then Brian the current owner  reached out to me on the internet and invited me to visit. So this was one of the first places I hit up. Brian was the perfect host, and showed me around the farm, took me to dinner and made me fall in love with both him and the farm. The farm, funnily enough, is across the road (and I mean across the road) from Gethumbwini I mentioned earlier that’s now a gated community.

Unknown-1
So last year we agreed that we would buy a small amount of Brian’s AA (more to come) coffee to see how it went. It went very well, so this year we had many email exchanges about how we can make more of a difference and increase what were doing with Brian. So Brian also sent us his AB lot to cup. Whats AB I hear you cry ?

Well I searched the internet and found this

  • AA – AA is a grade of coffee. Beans with a screen size of 7.2 millimeters (approximately 18/64 of an inch and often referred to as a screen size of 18) are assigned the grade AA. This grade of coffee often receives a higher price than other grades.
And AB
 
  • AB – Slightly smaller that AA, with a screen size of 6.8 millimeters (or 17/64 of an inch). On average, 30% of Kenyan coffee is assigned this grade.
But in layman terms, they are different and present different cups. Some years AA taste better, some years AB’s sometimes there just different. This time they were both different but delicious. So we have been lucky to secure these two lots from Brian’s farm.

The AA’s Cupping notes are

In the cup you can expect fruit, ALL the fruit! Starts off with blackcurrant creamy, smooth, balanced with a fantastic body and structure.  Then theres a delicious white grape / green apple acidity, a whopping citrus delight finishing on black cherry.

And the AB’s cupping notes are

In the cup expect a lovely lush creamy mouthfeel, with a summer fruit kick of peaches and apricots and fresh bright green apple acidity.

But why stop there, I decided to drive up the road to Nyeri. Nyeri is a city situated in the Central Highlands of Kenyaand is situated about 150 km (a two-hour drive) north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. It is the country’s most densely populated and fertile area in Central Highlands, lying between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range, which forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift Valley, and the western slopes of Mount Kenya.

Last year we worked with a cooperative called Kieni. Its fair to say Kieni have been one of the most proactive cooperatives and producing consistent quality because of the work of a Danish roastery who has been working with them for a number of years.

Unknown-2

The coffee collective have been doing some amazing work with the management team and investing in helping the coop to do great work, a real poster child for working in the region. Becuase of this I had reservations of working with them, not wanting to take advantage of someone elses work. So an email to one of the owners who is also a very good friend, was called for. His reply was why I love working in coffee, “we cant buy all the coffee so of course you should dive in and help them, but only if you pay the same price as we are”. So I did and last year this was a great success, another different cup.

Unknown-3

We have followed this up this year with another purchase from them, that we are super excited about. But why stop there, you already learned about AB and AA so we have

The Kieni AA cupping notes are

In the cup expect a super different Kenyan that’s been shaken up with a Tiki twist. First thing you’ll get is the huge  mouthfeel. Then there’s a big hit of juicy tropical fruit, lemons and oranges which finishes with a super sweet caramel acidity. A deliciously different Kenyan.

And the Kienni AB notes are

In the cup expect fresh orange juice like acidity, with a lovely floral edge, and an aftertaste of Rose water and a gentle fruit sweetness .

So fairly impressive hey ? I’m super proud of thew work we do there, but why stop there. So last year in partnership with an exporter we did a natural Kenyan. This is not normal. Kenyan coffees are renowned for their clean taste, transparent and of course being washed.

So still in Nyeri around 5km outside of the town theres another coop called Othaya and they have a mill near to the Chinga dam (called Chinga). They offered (with some reservations) to start a natural project. We asked them if they would naturally process a batch for us. They kindly agreed to do so as long as we promised to buy it regardless of the final cup. A gamble by us, but one that paid off as you snapped it up. We cupped the sample for the first time together, as you can see I’m at the end of the trip and quite sleepy

Highlands mill cupping room (4)

But we have built on that and took a large lot this year (less of a gamble) and they have also fine tuned the process, so its even better than the experiment . So here we have

The cupping notes for the Othya Chinga Natural are
In the cup expect the unexpected. An thread of blackcurrants all the way through, like you would expect from a Kenyan, but with a lovely big body, and a liquorice flavour that reminds me of Pontefract cakes, whilst remaining incredibly clean.
KCCE cupping lab team
This sounds like I’m blowing my own trumpet. I’m not, I did the easy part, I turned up, cupped some delicious coffees and paid for them. The hard work has come from the exporters, the cooperative, from Brian, pickers workers, managers and the rest. The great news is you can drink them and enjoy their hard work, and I can feel smug in the knowledge we have the best range of Kenyans we have ever had, build on strong relationships, paying a good price and making everyone along the chain super happy, I hope you will be too.

PS if your wondering why the blog post has the title it does watch this video, I sang it the whole trip


Guest spot on Coffee Podcast

I was asked recently to guest spot on a podcast about coffee, which makes a nice change from making podcasts (someone else gets to do the editing).

Valerian runs a podcast called coffeeis.me  and I had super fun talking to him about how I got involved in coffee, what 7 year old in Cannock do, and my dreams of going to prison.

Below is part one, at 55 mins its a long one but I hope you get chance to listen.

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy it.

SUPER DALE!!!!

Some of you may have heard of the UKBC, some of you may not…for those who don’t know what I’m typing about UKBC stands for the United Kingdom Barista Championship and once a year the top baristas in the country compete to be crowned #1 in the UK! The lucky, skilled and amazing individual that takes that #1 spot then represents the UK at the World Barista Championships and fights against other #1 seeds from around the world to take home the title of best barista in the world!

If you already knew what the letters UKBC meant then it’s more than likely that you know the name Dale Harris : ) Dale is my Director of Wholesale here at Has Bean and loves few things in life more than barista competitions. The UKBC regional heats finished in Bristol last week (after heats in London and Glasgow over the previous weeks) and I think here a picture will speak a thousand (or maybe 607 words)…

 

9k=

 

 

 

 

 

 

@hasbean on Instagram

Those are the results of all competitors after the 3 regional heats and as you can see Dale is right up there at the top! OH MY DAYS WELL DONE DALE! Not only did he take top spot on the day but he was also awarded best espresso and best milk drink for the Midlands heat : D

“Hey Steve! #1 place wow! Best espresso and best milk drink too! What coffee was Dale using?” I hear you ask? “CAN I HAVE SOME?!”

Well my friends yes, yes indeed you can! All you need to do is click a link!

http://www.hasbean.co.uk/products/el-salvador-finca-escocia-washed-bourbon

A coffee we originally found via the El Salvador Cup of Excellence but this time went direct to the farm and I’m so incredibly happy that we did : ) Dale used this coffee and this coffee alone for his routine and produced espressos and milk drinks that were considered to be the very best of the day, if you can’t make it taste amazing then it’s definitely you not me ; )

As a special little treat so you can try this amazingly delicious coffee I’ve decided to be really nice and offer a bit of a discount, pop the code “superdale” into the discount code box when checking out + click apply and it’ll knock 15% off the price of the coffee.

The UKBC finals will be held at the London Coffee Festival in April, I’ll be there cheering Dale on and I hope some of you can make it down to London to join me : )

9k=-1

 

 

 

 

 

@tailorsonali on Instagram

 

El Salvador and the “Quality Coffee Event 2016”

I know many readers here will have seen my blog post, about the disappointment of the Alliance for coffee excellence cancelling a number of next years program in Africa and Central America.

One of the ones that disturbed me the most was the El Salvador program, which is one thats been super close to my heart. This was the the first cup of excellence program that I was able to buy the number one coffee (2007) and purchase that I followed through with a long term relationship (and many since). This has also be a a country that has been hit hard by the leaf rust epidemic thats swept through some of my favourite growing areas, and effected many of my friends who we buy coffee from.

It was also the place that I had emails reaching out to me, from producers (read as three separate people) who read my blog post and were compelled to contact me, expressing how upset they were that the program wouldn’t be coming and how some of them had been working on special lots to enter the competition, and their work was to be wasted.

So instead of a negative blog post about how bad this is, it’s lovely to report that the Consejo who are the supporting body for the Salvadorian coffee community have written to me and said that they plan to hold a national project to carry on the local specialty discovery program in house, and carry on the hard work done over many years of COE programs. Sure the protocols will be different I am sure, and some of the way its implemented will be different, but I am sure with a good group of people searching through samples for quality and using protocols and procedures, there will still be a very good opportunity to find true quality coffee and help producers find quality buyers.

I’m also really excited that the Consejo have asked me to be one of the judges for this program this year, and I am more than happy to offer my help and support to make sure something happens.

Dates are yet to be confirmed and I ma sure there are many hurdles to overcome, but I am excited to be involved, and I’ll be offering as much support as I possibly can, and very excited to be asked to be involved.

Watch this space!!!!

Coffee Flower Tea

Some of you may have tried Cascara, and thought wow that’s it, I’m trying all the plant! But no no no there’s more! An idea that first popped into my head back in 2010 has finally come to fruition. Dale Harris my Director of Wholesale here at Has Bean towers likes to compete in barista competitions, and these competitions require you to come up with signature drinks. I remember sneaking back from Costa Rica with some coffee flowers to try and incorporate into this drink. We never found an effective way to use them, but it’s something that bugged me over and over again.

So with our partners in Bolivia I asked them if they could harvest some flowers for us, and see what we could do. This doesn’t damage the crop, as they are harvested just as they are about to fall from the tree but it does involve lots of work (which is just 1 of the reasons why we love the people we work with).

So the process begins after a coffee harvest when there’s normally a period of dry weather, during this time the coffee plant gets a little stressed at the lack of water. Then the rainy season comes which sparks the coffee plant into creating little blossom flowers, these flowers are one of the most amazing and powerful smells I have ever experienced (if you could make a aftershave of it then it’d be my smell of choice) and these flowers appearing mark the start of the process of the coffee plant creating its cherries for our lovely coffee beverages.

The amounts we have are tiny and won’t be around for long. We’ve also got a number of different varietals that all taste quite different.

We played with brewing it as a tea, and boom a unique drink! Our hard working partners in Bolivia have spent a huge amount of time and energy collecting these and we’re also able to separate different varietals of flower, which surprisingly taste very different.

We have –

Bourbon
Geisha
Cepac
Catura
Java

We even made a brew guide here to help you get the best out of the flowers :

 

We’re selling them in one brew sachets, that’s how little we have, but it’s an experience you will want to enjoy. Were also selling in a 5 pack so you can try them all side by side.