This month we travel to Kenya by way of Italy, with the legendary Rubens Gardelli roasting for us. Packed full of flavour this is a delicious way to truly savour what Kenyan coffee is all about.
Kiriani by Gardelli Specialty Coffee
I bet you didn’t think the first month of your subscription was going to be roasted in Italy! Rubens Gardelli, founder of Gardelli Coffee, is a one of a kind Italian coffee professional. He’s hyper-focused on quality and innovation and is producing my favourite kind of light-but-sweet roasts. This dedication shows. Here’s a short list of how hard he’s crushing the Italian and international coffee competition scene:
- 1st place 2016 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship
- 1st place 2015 WCE Italy Brewers Cup competition video
- 1st place 2015 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship
- 2nd place 2014 WCE World Brewers Cup competition video
- 1st place 2014 WCE Italy Brewers Cup competition video
- 1st place 2014 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship interview
His 2015 World Brewers Cup routine stood out for me as one of the most interesting competition concepts ever. Essentially, he only used coffee from one tree, and went to incredible lengths to maintain the viability of the seeds until roasting. I don’t say this often about coffee competition routines: it’s actually worth a watch. The Gardelli roastery is in Forlì, halfway between Rimini and Bologna on the upper East coast of Italy. They always have delicious coffees on hand, and ship internationally. If you’re keen to try more coffees from them, there’s another sample that Rubens sent me -the Ch’ire Ameli from Ethiopia– that is absolutely outstanding!
If you’ve had Kenyans before, you’ve probably heard of Nyeri in the county Mukurwe-ini. Kiriani is just 28km south of Nyeri near the Mukurwe-ini border in another county called Muranga. Pretty much right next door.
Mrs Rakeli Njeri Njoroge and five other family members founded the 39.5 acre Kiriani estate in 1978. Kenyan coffees are often processed at washing stations owned by farmer cooperative societies, but this coffee comes from a single estate that grows and wet mills its own coffee. The Njoroge family grows tea and bananas alongside the SL28 and SL34 coffee plant varieties at approximately 1680-1850 meters above sea level.
The coffee is handpicked and pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature ‘mbuni’s (floaters) using water floatation which means the denser beans will sink and be sent through channels to the fermentation tank. This first stage of fermentation will last for around 24 hours, after which the beans are washed and sent to the secondary fermentation tank for another 12-24 hours. Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for up to another 24 hours. This soaking process is intended to develop amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean which apparently results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup – it is thought that this process of soaking contributes to the flavour profiles that Kenyan coffees are so famed for. The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where they are laid in a thin layer to allow around 50% of the moisture to be quickly removed.
This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 5-10 days of the drying period. The dry parchment coffee is then delivered to a private mill and put into ‘bodegas’ to rest – these are raised cells made of chicken wire which allows the coffee to breathe fully.
Coffee is traditionally sold through the country’s auction system, though recent amendments to the coffee law of Kenya have brought about the introduction of direct trading whereby farmers can by-pass the auction and sell directly to speciality roasters around the world. Once the coffee is washed and dried it is sent to the Kofinaf Mill for dry milling and grading. It is then prepared for shipment.
1$ from every envelope is donated to the roaster’s coffee related charity of choice. This month, Rubens chose Grounds For Health. Since 1996, Grounds for Health has worked in Latin America and Africa to address one of the most significant disparities in women’s health globally. Cervical cancer is a nearly 100% treatable disease, and yet in the next 15 years it is expected to kill six million women – 90% of whom will live in developing countries. Grounds for Health specialises in working in communities that represent the base of global supply chains such as coffee, tea, cut flowers and cocoa.
This part of the last mail-out was really valuable for a lot of people. I’ve set up a few posts in the Barista Hustle Community Forum where we can all geek out together. Please free to jump in! Roasting – Rubens has a highly custom roaster so this should be interesting. Kiriani – Questions about Kenyan coffee, the variety, or anything pre-roasting. Brewing – Troubleshooting, recipes, water, advice, and sharing tasting notes. Meta – Anything else about the subscription.