Finally the new coffees from the 2013 crop is starting to arrive. Apart from the delicious Tekangu that arrived a month ago, we are now starting to sell some shade dried coffees from the farm Los Pirineos in El Salvador. There are 3 lots that were specially prepared and processed after our specifications for sale from this week.
I am also very excited to launch the second harvest from Finca Tamana. The June harvest from 2012 was somewhat a slightly muted coffee. The November / December harvest is now for sale and fortunately it has a lot more character, intensity and fruity flavors. Simply put; it is a much better coffee, and for that I am extyremely excited as we have put so much effort in to improving this coffee together with Elias.
It has been a while since I visited Kapsokisio in Mt. Elgon in West-Kenya in January. I fell in love with this coffee immediately while cupping it in Kenya and I am super happy to finally be able to sell it in our store.
The line-up for the 2012 Nordic Barista Cup has been announced and our very own Tim Wendelboe will be speaking again this year – he will speak on his experiments to improve green quality at origin. The Nordic Barista Cup is one of the premier coffee events of the year and this year there are some exciting changes to the competition.
He’ll be amongst impressive company – Rene Redzepi from Noma, Oliver Strand from the New York Times & James Hoffmann from Square Mile Roasters – to name just a few.
I just wanted to give a short update on my recent travel to Kenya. A lot of people have written to me with concerns on my tweets about the coffee quality in Kenya not being as high as last year. I might have tweeted about it a little early as we are hearing now that better coffees are coming in to the mills. But, I will still state that there was very few lots that could match the high quality we saw last year. We even brought our one year old coffees from Tekangu and Ndumberi to cup side by side the new crop coffees and to be honest they cupped better than most of the lots on that particular table.
Still, we did find some fantastic coffees on our trip, especially one lot from Tekangu and one lot from the western part of Kenya which up until now has been a neglected area for coffee connoisseurs. I went on a trip to Eldoret and Mt. Elgon, which is on the boarder of Uganda, together with Kennedy Keya from Dormans and Paul Geshos from Mecca in Sydney and we did see a lot of potential in the area. CMS has already set up a mill in Eldoret to get more of these coffees into the market and to separate the better lots for customers like ourselves. We did cup 2 spectacular lots from Mt. Elgon and decided to buy one of them. I can’t wait to start selling it in 3 months time. More info on that later.
Now, back to the topic. We did see very little coffee coming out of Kenya in the 2010/11 crop. This was due to the bad weather resulting in very little flowers on the coffee trees, hence less coffee on the trees. However it did rain a lot during the expansion stage of the coffee cherries, so the little coffee that was on the trees got a lot of water and nutrients. That is probably why the quality of the coffee that was available last year was very good. I remember coming back with over 15 samples that were all spectacular last year, whereas this year we came home with around 5.
This year the crop was almost 3 times bigger. Which in itself did create some problems during harvest as the harvest was short and drying capacity in many co-operatives was too small due to lack of drying tables.
Morten, from our new sister company Nordic Approach, was in Kenya during the harvest and could report that there was a lot of rain during harvest that also created problems with drying capacity. We did taste a lot of baggy and mouldy coffees this year, which has been rare for my last 4 years visiting. Ernest, the cupper at Central Kenya Coffee Mills suspected the bagginess to come from packing coffee in bags when the moisture content in the beans was still too high. We know that coffee easily gets mouldy if it is not dried efficiently, so it makes sense when you hear the weather has not been on our side.
Another problem Morten reported was that there was a lot of Coffee Berry Disease during the 2011/12 crop. The cherries that were delivered to a lot of Co-operatives were of mixed quality, hence compromising the cup quality. There was also a bumper crop which resulted in more green and unripe cherries being delivered together with the ripe coffee.
So, there are several reasons why the majority of the coffees we tasted in Kenya is not as good as last year. The 2010/11 crop was an exceptional year for quality in Kenya, but the crop was small and that is not great for the income of the farmers. It does not mean there is not great coffees to be found in Kenya this year. We did find some spectacular coffees during our visit, it was just a bit harder to find them.
The Kenyan coffee harvest is just ending and we will be going to Kenya in January to taste this years harvest. In the meantime, while we are waiting for the new crop to arrive, I thought I would publish a video I filmed during the harvest in 2010. Hope you like it.
A lot of you have probably allready noted that the coffee prices have been rising a lot during the last year. Only a week ago the C-market (based on future contracts on coffee where prices are set by speculation on supply and demand) went over USD 3 per lb (453 g) of green unexported coffee. This is a record high price and compared to last year where the price was more or less around USD 1,30 per lb, a great price for farmers around the world. But with high prices the farmers meet new challenges.
A lot of coffee was being stolen while I was in El Salvador and Honduras this year. Local pickers would raid farms at night and pick all the coffee on the trees and sell the coffee to middlemen. There were also an armed robbery at a cooperative in Santa Ana where 4 persons carrying guns stole a truck full of ready to export coffee. We are talking values at about USD 100.000,- being lost and for a farmer where his / her only income during the year is the one harvest of coffee, it can be devastating.
The solution to the problem is to hire security which will tare on the extra profit the farmers are making on the higher prices.
So as we can see, high prices can also be a headache for a farmer. But this is not what I initially wanted to write about.
One of the reasons for rising prices is not only a growing demand for coffee in countries like India and China (which traditionally are more tea drinkers) We are also seeing coffee producing countries like Brazil where there is a rapidly rising middle class who are consuming more coffee than before.
Add this to climatic changes that has lead to extremely poor growing conditions in Colombia three years in a row and also in several other producing countries such as Kenya where they have had a severe decrease in production for the last 2 years.
In fact during the 2009 /10 crop there was a terrible drought making a lot of the coffee mediocre in quality and the total volume of the crop in Kenya was low. You might have noticed that even though our Tekangu last year was good it was not the same quality as the 2008 / 09 crop.
In the recent crop in Kenya there was little rain during the flowering, which lead to an extremely low yield. However there was a lot of rain during the expansion / maturation stage of the coffee cherries producing extremely high quality.
The results of this was that during our visit in kenya in January there was not a lot of coffee to choose from but the quality was very high. Because of this the prices at the Kenyan Coffee Auction went sky high as there is a huge demand for what is considered some of the worlds best coffees.
To give you some numbers, in 2010 we payed USD 4,5 to 5 per lb. of unexported coffee, which was then a very high price compared to the Fair trade standard which was about USD 2,20 per lb.
This year we had to pay USD 7,50 per lb. This means the new crop coffees from Kenya that we will start selling this week will be a bit more pricey than last year. Regardless of this we have bought more Kenyan coffee this year as the quality was extremely high and it is our favourite coffees. We feel that if there is any coffee that is worth some extra money, it is the Kenyan coffees as they are extremely intense and characteristic in flavour. Besides, the price per cup is still not very high compared to the price of a beer or a bottle of water.
We have bought 3 lots this year. Two of the lots are from the Karogoto factory at the Tekangu Cooperative in Nyeri where we donated 8 steel drying beds in November.
The 2 lots we bought were actualy dried on the new tables and while visiting the cooperative again in January they expressed their gratitude once again and explained that it had made their production a lot easier this year.
The coffee is delicate and floral with a lot of rose hip flavour and crisp acidity.
As promised here are some more notes from our trip to Kenya last week.
After spending a whole day at the Tekangu coop, filming their processing techniques (to be launched in video soon) and handing over the drying tables we funded through our Drying table project, we went to visit some smallholder farmers to document the picking of the cherries. We visited one shamba (smallholder farm) which was by far the best one I have ever seen.
The trees looked super healthy and the farmer Mr. Eliud Kimotho delivers his coffee to the Karogoto factory. (No wonder their coffee is so tasty.)
He produces an average of 30 kg of coffee cherries per tree and had a total of 180 trees only.
Eliud started farming 10 years ago when he retired from his old work and he also grew corn, potatoes, bananas, grass for his cattle, all mainly for domestic consumption.
We were promised a bag of Mr. Eliud’s coffee to be dried on on the new drying tables at Karogoto and hopefully they will keep their word so I can taste that coffee in February.
On another Shamba we visited in Kirinyaga, the trees looked a lot more stressed, had more leaf rust and were carrying very little cherries.
This was because the farmer did not have money to buy fertilizer and copper spray as the cooperative he was a part of were not able to pre-finance his farm input. The problem with this is that in Kenya most farmers get pre-financing for farm input (fertilizer, etc) based upon the last crop yields. Since the crop yield is very low this year, the farmers will not be able to buy enough fertilizer, etc for the 2011/12 crop -the prognosis is that it will be very high in volume. That means the farmers will not be able to produce to the full potential in 2011. It is easy to forget what long term effects a bad crop can have on a farmer. As a coffee buyer we are only affected by the fluctuations in the prices and that is why I believe it is important to support the farmers also when the prices or yields are low by paying more for their best qualities.
Thursday morning we also cupped different grades.
This means we took samples from the same lot but sorted the beans in the different sizes as they are sold on auction. (AA / AB / PB / C / T / TT and UG). The results were fairly obvious, the AA was the best (biggest beans) The PB (Peaberry) and AB were fairly similar and C, T, and TT were bitter and flat and some had sour and fermenty taste. The UG (Ungraded) was by far the worst coffee I have ever tasted. It tasted like manure and rotten fruit. The aromas was similar to the ones you get when you are standing in a barn full of cows and sheep. What is shocking about these coffees is that they are actually sold.
On friday morning we drove from Nyeri to Ruiru to visit the Coffee Research Foundation.
We had just heard that they had released a new coffee varietal, called Batian (The name of the peak of Mt. Kenya,) that they spent 12 years developing. Batian is a new alternative to the not so tasty Ruiru 11 that the Research Foundation had developed in the 80′s. Both varietals are more resistant to Coffee Berry Disiease and Leaf Rust than the traditional varietals grown in Kenya, SL 28 and SL 34. The problem is that the best coffees from Kenya are normally coming from the SL varietals, so we were interested to taste the new Batian variety next to the Ruiru 11 and the SL 28 and SL 34.
When we arrived we got a tour of the CRF and also a presentation of what work they are doing there. Basically, it is a resource center for coffee in Kenya where they train farmers, analyze soil and fertilizers, develop new varietals and research and develop new agricultural practices.
The greatest part of the tour was their varietal museum. Here we got to see some amazing coffee trees, and their Coffea Ecxelsa and Liberica trees were the biggest coffee trees I have ever seen.(See biggest trees in pictures below)
They also had a lot of other varietals in their museum plot, but you can see more of them in the slide show on the bottom of this page.
After the tour we headed in to the CRF cupping lab to taste coffee. We were presented with 4 unnamed samples that we cupped before the coffees were revealed as Batian, SL 28, Ruiru 11 and a cup with a blend of Ruiru 11 and SL 28.
It turned out that I actually liket the Batian varietal the best. It was by far the sweetest and most floral and fruity. My second favourite was the blend and my 3rd favourite was the SL28. This was an unusual result but not too surprising as we were already were sceptical of the setup of the cupping. To be honest, all the coffees were very dark roasted and roasted on the same day as the cupping. The SL28 was not a good SL 28; it was both baggy and from the west part of Kenya which traditionally does not grow the best coffees. In fact all the coffees were grown in different parts of the country, so we suspected the CFR guys to set up a cupping to favour the Batian varietal as they have spent 12 years developing it. The only thing that did not surprise me with the cuping was that the Ruiru 11 was the worst coffee. This was flat and woody and very bitter.
I asked to get some samples of the Batian coffee to take home so I could cup it next to our SL28/34 from Tekangu and Mugaga, but our tour guide at CRF would not let me have it.
Regardless of that, I am very much looking forward to tasting the Batian varietal in the future as it seemed that a lot of farmers were already implementing the new plant in their fields. Hopefully it will not compromise the quality of Kenyan coffee in the future.
I will be going back to Kenya in February to buy and taste the coffees that is picked right now. More on that next year.
Tim and I have already spent 6 days in Kenya together with our dear friend and customer Anders Valde (the first World Aeropress Champion) and our good friend and coffee colleague from Solberg & Hansen, Alexander Scheen Jensen.
Our trip started on Monday where we spent the day at Dorman’s cupping lab, tasting the freshly harvested coffee from the fly crop in Kenya, followed by a tour at their green coffee mill and roasting factory in Nairobi. Although one of the coffees had already been sold for over USD 7 per lb. None of the coffees were spectacular.
On Tuesday we visited CMS (Coffee Management Servives) in Ruiru. CMS is both a marketing agent and a technical and agriculture resource for the cooperatives we buy from . The manager of CMS, Mr. Kamau Kuria has personally been in charge of making sure the money we donated through our drying table project was spent in the best possible way. We were lucky to have a one hour meeting with the ever busy Mr. Kamau, and he gave us vital info about the current harvest and the prognosis of next years coffee production in Kenya.
To sum up what he said; the severe rains during the flowering period has lead to less flowering making yields about 40% less than last years crop, which was also very low. The current prognosis of total production in the main harvest this year is only at 34.000 metric tons. However, the amount of AA and elephant beans is much higher due to a lot of rain during the expansion phase of the coffee cherries. This means there will be a lot of good quality coffee coming out of Kenya, but the yields are unfortunately very low, so there will be a lot of fighting and high prices to expect for the best lots.
In the afternoon we headed for Nyeri which was our main destination for this trip.
Wednesday morning we got a brief tour of the Central Kenya Coffee Mill where all our coffees are being dry milled before export.
After the tour we went to visit the Tekangu Cooperative Society and to finally do the official hand over of the drying tables we have funded through our drying table project on our 3 year anniversary. The board of directors greeted us with coffee and sweet potato complimented with good conversation. As this was my 3rd time visiting it was great to listen to the improvements done and future plans they had made to develop the coffee quality and infrastructure on their factories. The coffee we bought from Tekangu this year came from the Karogoto factory, so we had decided to place the new drying tables there.
As we went up to see the new tables, i was stunned and a bit shocked when the tables revealed themselves behind a row of trees protecting the Karogoto factory. Not only had CMS (Coffee Management Services) managed to build 8 new tables for the money we donated, but the tables were huge and the quality was extremely good.
Here are the most important features of the new tables:
Galvanized steel net to prevent rust hence a longer lasting drying surface.
Ergonomic height of the table to make it easier for workers as they don’t need to bend over to work on the drying coffee.
Extra steel wire for better support of the drying surface to prevent the net from sagging.
Concrete fundaments to prevent the tables to sink into the ground.
Angled edges at the end of the table to prevent workers from sitting on them as then they will more easily get ruined.
Each table can dry 20 bags which is 1 metric ton of coffee. They can dry 8 tons at the same time with the 8 tables.
Normally the Tekangu cooperative would spend 10 to 12 years to build 8 new steel drying tables, so the board members of Tekangu and especially the production manager of the Karogoto factory were very happy for the donation of the new tables.
The vice chairman of Tekangu made me promise to thank all our customers in Norway and C. Dorman in Kenya who supported the project and made it possible to build these drying tables. I am also extremely happy to see that the project went so well, so a big thank you to all who supported it.
The best part of the whole project is that the factory manager at Karogoto promised us he will separate the coffee that gets dried on the new tables so that we will be able to taste the difference between the coffee dried on the new vs old tables. I can’t wait to taste the difference when I go back to Kenya in February and hopefully we will be able to buy the coffee if the quality is as expected.
Of course our trip did not end there. We have also done a lot of other great stuff down here in Kenya, but I will write about that in part 2 of this post next week. (some key topics for the next post: new varietal (Batian) released in Kenya, pictures of enormous Liberica and Excelsa coffee trees, cupping of different grades in Kenya, etc)
I am extremely happy to announce that we have won the Nordic Roaster Competition for the 3rd year in a row.
The 2010 competition was supposed to be in 2 parts. One where all 10 competing roasteries roasted the same coffee and the other competition where the roasteries submit their best coffee and decides the brewing parameters on a BUNN filter brewer.
All coffees were to be cupped blind by the 150 + Nordic Barista Cup attendees and every person gets to vote for their favourite.
Unfortunately the first part of the competition was cancelled due to a very late shipment of the coffee. Therefore we decided to have an unofficial competition among 5 Norwegian roasteries to taste the difference in the same coffee being roasted by different roasters. It was a very interesting cupping and in my opinion and although very different, I really liked 3 of the roasts a lot. In the end we were unofficially voted the best, but since this was an unofficial competition the scores did not count in the Nordic Roaster Competition this year.
So, we were pretty much up against everyone in the final filter competition. The competing roasteries were : (in final Ranking order)
1st place: Tim Wendelboe from Norway
2nd place: Da Matteo from Sweden
3rd place: Solberg & Hansen from Norway
4th place: Gourmet Coffee from Estonia
5th place: Has Bean from the UK
6th place: Viva Cafe from Colombia
7th place: Copa Con oro from Norway
7th place: Löfbergs Lila from Sweden
9th place: Copenhagen Coffee Roaster from Denmark
Unfortunately, Kaffebrenneriet from Norway did not compete due to not having submitted the coffee on time.
The coffee we competed with was our coffee from Mugaga in Kenya. In our opinion our best coffee so far this year.
It was taken from one of our production roasts that Chris Fok did without knowing it was for the Nordic Roaster Competition.
The roast profile was developed by Tim Varney and me for a period of time as we normally do with all our coffees.
To learn more about how we work, please see my presentation on Roasting at this years Nordic Barista Cup that will be available soon at the Nordic Barista Cup Web site.
Thanks to all who voted for our coffee. It was fantastic to recieve the award in front of you all: