Tasting Notes: Rose hips / Hibiscus / Blackcurrants
Origin: Kenya [Nyeri]
Cultivar: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11, Batian
This coffee is produced by several hundred farmers, most of them growing the famous Kenyan SL28 and SL34 cultivars. While some have planted newer hybrids like Ruiru 11 and Batian you can clearly taste the clean and fruity flavours in this coffee that are so common for the SL cultivars. The coffee from Karogoto has a very distinct and intense fruity flavour with a refreshing acidity. Expect winey notes of rose hips, and blackcurrant.
Karogoto is a wet mill (also called factory) situated near Karatina town in Nyeri, Kenya. It is one of four wet mills that are owned by the Tekangu farmers cooperative society. There are numerous wet mills in Nyeri often just a few minutes drive from one to another. The reason for this is that Nyeri is home to thousands of smallholder farmers that owns on average 0,5 hecrtares of land where they typically grow coffee, maize, pasture and other crops. A farmer typically will pick her/ his coffee cherries and sell them to the nearest wet mill that is within walking distance. The cherries get bulked together before they are processed and dried by the staff on a cooperative wet mill and later sold to exporters at the weekly Kenyan coffee auction or directly to roasters.
How I started buying from Karogoto
Kenya is both a complicated and a very streamlined place to buy coffee. Unlike the origins we buy from in the Americas, it is slightly more challenging to find farmers that own enough land to be able to supply even small roasters like us. Most smallholder farmers sell their coffee to cooperatives and do not process or dry their own coffees. (Although they do exist.) On my first coffee buying trip to Kenya back in 2009 I was therefore taken on a tour to visit some of the best cooperative wet mills in Nyeri.
Because our host was Coffee Management Services (CMS), one of the many marketing companies that is hired by the cooperative wet mills to market and sell their coffees, we were taken to their “best in class” cooperatives. Among them were Tekangu and the three wet mills they were operating at that time, Tegu, Karogoto and Ngunguru. To be honest most of the wet mills looked very similar in structure and none of them really stood out to me. It was not until I was tasting coffees blind several times during that trip when I realised I actually really liked the cup profiles from these three factories and especially the coffee from Karogoto.
In the following years I would still pick out the coffees from these wet mills as some of my favourites while I was on my annual coffee buying trip to Kenya. I decided that even though it is challenging to build a close relationship to a management at a wet mill as they tend to change with cooperative elections from time to time, I wanted to stay loyal to at least one wet mill and see if I could contribute with some positive impact. Although I have been buying coffees from other wet mills in Kenya over the years, Karogoto is the one that I have been sticking to. I simply love the consistent great coffees they produce and have managed to visit them many times over the years.