The mention of "Kenya" for most people likely conjures the images of wild safari animals in savanna grasslands or those of the noble red clothed Masai tribe but when you mention Kenya to a coffee enthusiast that person is likely to imagine the volcanic red soil of Mount Kenya and the vibrant unmistakable sweet aromas and bright flavors of blackcurrants that are so intensely unique to washed Kenyan coffees.
While Kenya isn't far from the indigenous home of coffee in Ethiopia, it wasn't grown there until 1893 that French Missionaries brought coffee from the island of Reunion (once known as Bourbon). Britain had already been establishing its colonial presence and with that infrastructure the commercial production of coffee spread in Kenya on large estates to be exported and sold in London. But in 1933 the Coffee Act was passed moving the sale of coffee to Nairobi, the capitol, which would begin a powerful trajectory for quality coffee that would spread throughout East Africa. The Kenyan Coffee Board established an auction system still in use today that implemented a grading structure designed to improve quality and this system, while certainly not perfect, allowed for a competitive pursuit of quality and representation to be woven into the culture of growing and producing coffee, not as a commodity but as a specialty product.
After the Mau Mau uprisings in the 1950's on the path toward Kenyan independence from Britain, coffee production began to transfer from the British to the Kenyans both in the estates but also, perhaps more significantly for the people and diversity of Kenya, in the development of smallholder coffee production and Farmer Cooperative Societies (FCS). Today the coffee of Kenya is still produced by large estates and by the thousands of small producers in the many cooperatives. There is a range in size for both estates and cooperatives where many cooperatives have unified over the years to comprise several collection and processing mills called "Factories" each representing from a hundred to thousands of producers.
We have admired and enjoyed the qualities of Kenyan coffees and seek out those special coffees that also allow for the kind of transparency and human connection guides our pursuit in all things. As relationships are at the center of this, we decided to work with a community that has established its relationships and transparent pursuit of quality over decades with the Dormans family in Nairobi. Dormans works intimately throughout each stage in the supply chain of Kenya Coffee and consistently shows brilliant coffees from strong relationships and support to producers. We are thrilled to work with coffees and communities in both the estate model and in the FCS model with producers we can both connect and grow together.
Nyeri enjoys one of the best reputations for specialty coffee in Kenya and among coffee buyers and roasters its one the most sought after regions in the world for its typicity of blackcurrant that often shows more intensity and more refinement than other coffees in Kenya. In our first visit to Kenya with Dormans we visited three outstanding Factories in Nyeri all belonging to the Mutheka Farmers Cooperative Society. While each were impressive in their own right, it was the hospitality and personality we experienced at Kaiguri that left a lasting impression and resolve for us to connect with the community and their coffee in the years to come. Leah, the Factory Manager, is passionate about the lives and work of the 500 farmers contributing to Kaiguri. They are incredibly proud of their history and community here along with the unique micro climate they enjoy from the cold mountain air moving through their small region directed from the Kayuma Hill across the river from the Factory. We love Kaiguri's classic Kenya expression both in the cup and in its origin.