Tuesday, June 14, 2005

   from Peter G

Hello from Kenya!

Hello everybody. I'm writing from Nairobi.

Wanted to give a little insight about what I am up to this week. Duane from Stumptown and I are here, preparing to teach some cupping classes for the Coffee Research Foundation of Kenya. This is pretty exciting, because we are told this sort of thing has never happened before. Traditionally, only the marketing agents and coffee dealers here know how to cup; it is extremely rare for farmers or producer groups to have any cupping expertise. Our mission here is to teach as many folks as we can the details of cupping, in the belief that an ability to taste coffee leads to the ability to create better coffees and therefore create more income for farmers who are willing to take on the challenge. As I said, exciting! Moving coffee forward, one cup at a time!

What I am wanting to know is, what is Kenya's place in espresso? (this is portafilter.net and all...) many roasters consider Kenya too intense for espresso blends. However, a little bird tells me that there is a Kenyan component in Hairbender.... I have always had trouble myself. If anyone wants to share any experience with Kenyan coffees- especially S.O.S.- I would love to hear them and share with the folks over here. By the way, the Kenyan barista competitor finished something like 13th in the world, and I wager he used an all-Kenyan blend....

-Peter

14 Comments:

Blogger Jimmy said...

Extreme down-dosing seems to favour kenyan or kenyan heavy blends (and grind finer, accordingly).

6/14/2005 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger chris said...

The range of coffees out of Kenya is such that it's hard for me to generalize on the use of these coffees in espresso. I've experienced two coffees from Kenya that made wonderful single origin espresso - but they were very different in style and the resulting approach to working with them was different.

I have yet to find one that is really suitable for being a large percentage component in espresso - but I've tasted a whole bunch that are great at about 20% of a blend as an accent note.

6/14/2005 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

Peter,
What's the word on the blending of Kenya... the practice that Colombia is moving away from?
maybe that can be the subject for your next blog post.... give us the rundown!

As for espresso, the trick is to look beyond the usual suspects. What about some not-so-premium grades?
Double A is great as a lighter roast, in my opinion, and that can make for a spikey espresso. I have used it before, but only sparingly.

6/14/2005 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peter(and Duane if you're reading),
I saw your post this morning so I walked down to one of the Stumptown cafes and bought a pound of Kenya AA Mariene. I pulled it as an espresso on my home machine equipped with a crotchless portafilter(Rancilio Silvia) and it came out quite nice. It is very bright, which can have the effect of turning me off on a coffee, but it was incredibly interesting. Lots of cherry tart and wine, with a finish somewhere in the realm of baker's chocolate. Not the best espresso I have ever had, but very good none the less. Hope you guys are having a good time in Kenya.

Kyle

6/14/2005 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Russell said...

Peter:

We served SOS Kenya in the shop this week. Probably roasted too dark for this purpose but we wanted to shake things up a bit and get our customers to think about espresso brewing differently. (Mini Mazzer!) Probably didn't have the result we intended, but it led to blending in some Kenya to one of our experimental blends.

6/14/2005 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Peter G said...

trish-

Duane and I are here as extreme opponents of lot-blending (or, as they call it here, "bulking"). The chaos here is significant. Everything we were worried about a year ago has gone away...(Tetu, Inc.; colombian-style generic coffees...) Now, there is a move to deregulate the market and give farmers and co-ops access to international markets by bypassing the current mandatory marketing system. The only problem is, nobody seems to know what to do. We gave a seminar yesterday and today that focused on the basics: lot separation, cupping expertise, and producer profiling. Strangely, this stuff is very controversial here. It is a challenge, to say the least.

Peter

6/16/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Great job Pete!

Could you elaborate more on why the idea of keeping the lots seperate is so controversial? I discussed this with Geoff Watts in Seattle, and couldnt really understand why it would be frowned upon. From my point of view, the best farmers should be recognized and awarded. But my point of view is very western and capitalistic...

6/16/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Keep fighting the good fight!

6/16/2005 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Peter G said...

Keith-

Lot separation can be logistically difficult, especially when you have a cooperative of very small farmers. It is difficult to market a lot of only 3 or 10 or 20 bags; especially when most buyers are more interested in container lots. Many prefer to blend lots and try to achieve some generic consistency (see trish's consistency post for analogy) rather than separate the great and mediocre lots. The economic wisdom of this is unclear: can you make more money by separating great and mediocre coffees, selling the best for high prices and the mediocre for low prices; or is it wiser to try to blend great and mediocre coffes together and get a price somewhere in between? Certainly it requires less work to blend lots, even from the cupper's perspective.

Also, lot separation violates the 'we are all equal' mentality of some co-ops.

Finally, most coffee producers don't get the connection between cup quality and lot price. Many think coffee is graded on appearance alone.

Peter

6/19/2005 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Got ya.
Yeah--I have been reading the consistency thread from Trish, and have not weighed in.
In my opinion as a small yittle roaster I would rather have those 3 to 10 bags of exceptional coffee.

I sure understand the "we all are equal" arguement and was wondering if that is really the heart of the resistance to keeping the lots seperate.

thanks Pete!!

6/20/2005 02:29:00 PM  
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