To keep things fresh and exciting for your coffee-loving palate, we're frequently changing up our single origin Chemex menu. Stumptown and ReAnimator send us the most optimal and seasonal beans, and we pass the deliciousness on to you. If drip coffee is old faithful, a Chemex pour over is a total adventure. One of our most awesome new flavor adventures comes to you in the form of Kenya Kangunu, a double fermented beauty that Sprudge called the "It" coffee of 2010. There's something special, and maybe a tiny bit challenging, about this coffee. It's got fruit (peach pie, pomegranate) going on, and floral going on, and a buttery smoothness that just won't quit. But if you dig further, there's something more going in there, something that whispers over and over as you sip: a round vegetal fullness, the tiniest hint of earth. Perhaps this sounds a little odd, but trust us - it's a deeply righteous cup.
That's partially due to the cooperative from Kenya where this coffee comes from. Kenya Kangunu, boasting over 1,500 members, has a stellar reputation for doing things right. It's not uncommon in the coffee-growing world for co-ops to be disorganized or disjointed, but this one has its act together - they're true professionals who have been growing great coffee for years. Additionally, the central highlands of Kenya where they're located has some of the world's most ideal conditions for farming coffee: acidic soil, good elevation, and the right balance of sunlight and rainfall.
High quality coffee is just one of the things Kenya is known for. A lot of what might signify "Africa" to you - safari tourism, lush jungles, dry savannahs, lakes with crazy waterfalls, and the Swahili language - aren't actually found in all parts of Africa. Africa is a truly gigantic continent, home to 54 countries (and 2 disputed), each with its own history and culture. Sometimes, and unfortunately, the staggering diversity of African cultures get lumped into one undifferentiated group.
Kenya, however, actually is home to all the things listed above. This country on the eastern coastline of the continent has a wildly varied landscape, with snow-capped mountains, equatorial heat and dry grasslands, which hosts the "Big Five" African animals: the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros. They've also got an amazing array of music - for a curated playlist from Smithsonian Folkways, see here.
Kenya's capital is Nairobi, and and 350 kilometers away is Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The current economy of Kenya fhas the largest GDP in Africa, which can partially be contributed to the agricultural production of coffee. With an estimated 150,000 coffee farmers, it's safe to say that this country produces a serious amount of coffee (about 40,000 tons a year!).
After being colonized by the British and French, Kenya was declared an independent republic in 1964. Soon after, Kenyan coffee farmers began forming cooperatives, many of which still exist today. About 70% of Kenyan coffee comes from small-scale farmers who are stakeholders in different co-ops, and many of these farmers own their own land.
We love how complex and rich the coffee we've got from Kenya Kangunu is, and also acknowledge the layered history and conditions that the farmers and other people in Kenya have faced throughout the past few centuries. There are stories and culture in every cup of coffee, and learning more is all part of the quest to become a more a more educated, globally-minded coffee-drinking citizen.
Photo of Kenyan rhino by Franco Pecchio
Photo of Lake Victoria by Benno Hansen