Manyeki Kenya Limited Release
- June 2017
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
There are a few things you need to know about Kenyan coffees. The first is that they tend to sing louder and with more dynamic range than those from other origins—these coffees are not known for being subtle. The second is that most coffee professionals are crazy about them; their complexity and depth of flavor combined with soaring sweetness make them a cupper’s delight. And the third is that we don’t often come across Kenyan coffees that have been produced by single farmers. The majority of Kenyan coffees are combinations of coffees from hundreds of small farms.
Like most small-scale farmers in the region, Mary delivered coffee to one of the many local Cooperative Societies from her start in coffee in 1992 until 2006, when she and her husband made the decision to invest in their own wet mill system and try to work independently. From that point onwards they’ve been growing slowly and steadily, adding both more trees and more land area to their farm in incremental steps every couple of years. Today she has several distinct blocks, and over the past two years has turned her attention towards refining her fermentation and drying protocols as a means of protecting the quality that she has been betting on for the last decade.
There are some distinct advantages that small independent farmers who process coffees themselves enjoy over those who only sell cherry. Perhaps the most important one is that they are in a position to control every quality variable directly, from harvesting through to fermentation, drying and parchment sorting. The coffees that emerge after all the work is done reflect their personal level of commitment to managing the small details that influence whether or not a coffee reaches its full quality potential. There are some trade-offs; it is more costly to manage the post harvest handling of coffees on a small scale, without the efficiencies gained through centralized pulping, and hiring/training staff requires an additional investment of resources. But the probability of producing exceptional quality, consistently, is far higher when a farmer is able to take full ownership over her own coffee production.
In addition to their coffee the Manyeki family is also growing tea; Kenya has a long tradition of tea cultivation and it is not uncommon in this region to find coffee and tea growing side-by-side. The age-old “Coffee or Tea?” question has played out in slow motion here . The early focus of the family was weighted towards tea, but Mary is fascinated with coffee and fortunately for us has taken over operations and concentrated her efforts in favor of the coffee. Her enthusiasm is as obvious as it is contagious—walking the fields with her and listening to her talk about her trees and approach to caring for them it became apparent to me quickly that she loves what she does, and in speaking to her team it is clear that her passion transfers fluidly to the people she employs to help at the farm.
This is the second year that we’ve been working directly with Mary, and the first time that we’ve presented her coffee on its own. This year’s crop is delicious, bursting with ripe fruit tastes, floral accents, sparkling acids and a hint of savory raisin that enhances the complexity of the coffee. Its debut in our lineup as our first Kenyan offering from the 2017 crop is our way of giving Mary the marquee showcase she deserves.