Long regarded as the heart of Kenya's "black gold coffee," the Nyeri region is credited with our special lot of carefully sorted and triple-washed peaberries. Produced from trees of the heirloom SL28 and SL34 and the modern Ruiri 11 varieties and processed by the Rukira Factory, one of several wet mills operated by the Othaya Farmers' Cooperative Society, this special micro-lot features coffee that grew with just one, rather than two, seeds in each coffee cherry.
The Rukira delivers Kenya's beloved profile and maintains a balanced cup despite its complex flavors ranging from blackberry, pineapple and plum to vanilla and salted caramel. Perfectly structured with a lively mouthfeel, the coffee features a hint of nut-toned cocoa that carries into a long, flavor-saturated finish. Whether one prefers savory and sweet, or bright and balanced, this micro-lot will likely capture the interest of any devoted coffee lover.
The peaberry (referred to as "caracol" in Latin America) is generally recognized to be a developmental anomaly that results in the presence of a single seed inside the cherry, rather than two. Affection for the round seeds might simply be visual appeal - they're pleasantly uniform both before and after roasting. It's possible, but generally disputed, that peaberries may possess more concentrated flavor than coffee with two seeds.
Kenya is, of course, known for some of the most meticulous at-scale processing that can be found anywhere in the world. Bright white parchment, nearly perfectly sorted by density and bulk and conditioned at high elevations, is the norm and a matter of great pride. Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed factories to wash and soak their coffees repeatedly with fresh, cold river water. Conservation is creeping into the discussion in certain places, understandably in the drier areas where water cannot be taken for granted, but for the most part Kenya continues to thoroughly wash and soak its coffees according to tradition. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is a longstanding tradition and positions Kenyan coffees well for roasters by tightly controlling the physical preparation and creating a diversity of profiles from a single processing batch.
It is along the lower edge of the dense forests of Mt. Kenya where in wet, high-elevation communities with mineral-rich soil (Mt. Kenya is a stratovolcano) that many believe the best coffees in Kenya, arguably the world, are crafted. Nyeri is perhaps the most well-known of these central counties. Kenya's coffee is dominated by a cooperative system of production whose members vote on representation, market and milling contracts for their coffee, as well as profit allocation. Othaya Farmer's Cooperative Society, the umbrella organization that includes Rukira Factory, is one of Kenya's larger societies with 19 different factories and more than 14,000 farmer members across the southern Nyeri region.
The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult and in Kenya the number of individual margins sliced off an export price, before payment reaches the actual farms, is considerable and leaves only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself. Most often, this arrives many months after harvest. However, Kenyan coffees are sold competitively by quality, which means well-endowed counties like Nyeri achieve very high average prices year after year. The smallholders with a few hundred coffee trees at the most, plus additional land uses available, are widely considered to be middle class.
Grower: 600 producers organized around the Rukira Factory
Variety: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 and Batian
Region: Rukira Village, Nyeri County, Kenya
Soil: Volcanic loam
Process: Triple Washed: Cherries floated prior to pulping, fermenting, washing. soaking and then dried on raised beds.