This month we’re back to Kenya with an exciting SL28 & 34 from the Kii Factory in Kirinyaga County, roasted by the team behind Manhattan Coffee Roasters, Esther Maasdam and Ben Morrow. 

You can sign up to receive other rare, unique, and special coffees just like this when you join our Superlatives subscription, or just purchase a one-off bag. But they do go quick!   


About the coffee:

Farm/Washing Station: Kii Factory

Cooperative: Rungeto Farmers Cooperative Society

Members: 1200

Harvest Season: 2016/2017

Plant Varietal: SL28 & 34

Coffee Type: Wet Process

Drying Method: Raised Beds


Farm location and other characteristics:

Country: Kenya

Province: Ngariama, Kirinyaga County

Growing Altitude: 1600 – 1900 masl


The bean: Kii (Kirinyaga) Kenya AA+

The SL28 and 34 varieties came about from experimental cultivar development research during 1934 – 1963. This research was conducted by Scott Laboratories, leading to the “SL” name. The research was aimed towards the usual trend in coffee varietal research: larger yields, drought resistance, and later on disease resistance. The SL varietals have sadly fallen short of the disease resistance goal, being quite susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease. The SL varietals are renowned for the famous “Kenya” flavours of intense acidity, blackcurrant goodness,  and tropical fruit flavours. 

However this high quality flavour creates a problem for farmers in Kenya. On one hand they could persist with growing SL 28 and 34 and risk losing their crops to Coffee Berry Disease, or they could rip up the crops and replant with a more disease resistant but lower quality coffee. The idea of risk, and who bears the costs and responsibilities of that risk, is not simply an intellectual problem to be posed but a reality of life for farmers in Kenya. 

Meister has a very cool rundown on SL28 and 34 here.


The Co-op: Rungeto Farmers Co-operative Society

Formed in 1996 after breaking away from the massive Ngariama Cooperative Society, Rungeto Farmers Co-operative Society sits on the southern slopes of the third highest mountain in the world, Mt Kenya. Made up of 1200 farmers, this cooperative produces 500k of green annually, from 535 hectares. 

Coffee was first planted in Rungeto sub-location in 1952. The three wet mills of Rungeto were built by the Ngariama Cooperative Society. Kii Factory is the oldest (1965), followed by Karimikui (1968) and the latest is Kiangoi (1995). Seven board members manage the co-op: two elected in each wet mill with one member on rotation. The society harvests in two crops; its main crop in October and November, ready for marketing in January, and an earlier crop (usually less than 10% of the total) picked in May and June, delivered for milling in August.

32cup have some outstanding information available here on the bean and the co-op. 


The Roasters: Manhattan Coffee Roasters

Based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Manhattan Coffee Roasters is run by Esther Maasdam and Ben Morrow. You can read more about them here.


The Water:

For filter we stuck with recipe 1 as most of these brew recipes were tested in Melbourne. But for espresso we ramped up the minerals with some Hendo water from recipe 6. Head here if you haven’t already to mix up some concentrates and create your own bespoke mineral water for brewing. 



All methods:

Water at 100C (212F) (gotta be just off boil!) 

12g ground coffee to 200g water (60g/L)

Ground for pourover.

This coffee is pretty soluble, and tastes great around 1.5 – 1.6 TDS (classic Ben morrow filter strength).


Using recipe 1 for your water, slow down your pouring and don’t fill up the paper with more than 1cm water above the coffee line. It needs to be slow to extend that contact time, stirring like a bandit. With a 2:30 – 2:50 brew time expect a lot of black currant, some raisin, with the tropical flavours a little more subdued. There’s still plenty of sugar and juiciness, with a bunch of pretty perfume-like aromas. It’s worth kicking straight into the Hendo water here if you want some more punch from the tropical fruit flavours.


Go to town with your brew times here – we’re talking ~10 minutes. The longer it’s extended the more pineapple and tropical flavours that start emerging, with some stunning juicy berry pie flavours, along with a bunch of rosé sweetness. 


The usual brew parameters: 5.5 bars pump pressure, 18g dose in 18g VST basket, ~38g beverage weight, 20-25 second shot time, 10kg tamp force, 90°C brew temp, with frozen beans ground straight from the freezer. Stick with Hendo water for this — you need a lot of minerals to drag the flavour out in the shorter brew times compared to filter. 

This gives you everything that’s great about Kenyan espressos: sticky sweet (there is so much sweetness here) that dark current and tropical fruit juiciness, with some complex malt coming out to compliment a lush body. With slower brew times over 30 seconds you tend to get a little too much malt and overpower the fruit, so stick between 25-30 seconds. It’s delicious as espresso, and on a 1:2 ratio with milk that sweetness with some maltiness really shines. 

The Kii is everything you want from a Kenyan: versatile with most brew methods, tropical fruit flavours, and sweet, sweet, sweet. It truly is a superlative coffee ; ) Let us know how you go with brewing this up yourself in the comments below! 


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