Compelling & Rich Kenya Karimikui Peaberry

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Compelling & Rich, founded by Kian Abedini, is a micro-roasting coffee operation based out of Los Angeles, California. Kian roasts small batches of unique coffees and has been doing quite a bit of barrel-conditioned coffee using wine or bourbon barrels, too. I was able to have a small sample of Compelling & Rich’s Ethiopia Kochere earlier this year and it was really good (peaches for days!), so I have anxiously been waiting for a break in my coffee reviewing schedule to be able to buy some beans from Kian and fit them into the rotation!

Today’s review is Compelling & Rich’s Karimikui Peaberry coffee from Kenya. This coffee comes from the Karimikui washing station, which is one of several used by the Rugento Farmers Cooperative Society in the coffee growing region of Kirinyaga. Basically, in Kenya, lots of small farmers band together in co-ops, combine their crops and process them together at the same stations. Lots of good coffees come from this station in Kenya and the lots are often quite small. The Rugento farmers are growing coffee in the 1800-2000masl range and this is a peaberry consisting of SL-28 variety beans. 1 Kian roasts this one to City+ level (a light-medium). I paid $18 for my 10oz. bag of this coffee, but it looks like Kian may have sold out of it because the link on his website is gone. Compelling & Rich almost always has some Kenyan coffee or another available, so don’t fret! My sample was roasted on 8/6/15.

In the 1930’s the Kenyan government hired Scott Laboratories to help develop drought-resistant and higher yield coffees. One of the coffee varieties they identified as “SL-28” was thought to be a good pick and it was planted throughout Kenya. The SL-28 varietal is responsible for the classic Kenya coffee profile of bright, juicy, fruity acidity. Peaberry is a coffee grade based on size. Kenyan coffee is all sorted by size after processing. The largest is AA, followed by AB, B and so on. Peaberry (“PB”) coffee come from coffee cherries that only have one seed inside them. Usually there are two, and that gives coffee its characteristic flat side because the two seeds are pushed up against each other inside the fruit, flattening one side of the “bean.” Peaberries tend to be small and usually football-shaped and much rounder. It’s thought that they can have better flavor characteristics but that remains to be seen with objective testing.

Whereas I liked Blip Roasters’ Kenya Murang’a AB Plus for its darker, sweeter fruits and sugars, I liked this one from Compelling & Rich for the opposite reason. This is a classic example of a bold, bright Kenyan coffee, but it’s not harsh or abrasive in any way and the intense, herb-like bitterness that can come with all that brightness is all but erased from this Karimikui! I prepared this coffee according to Kian’s suggestions on his website using a notNeutral Gino dripper (which is basically the same as a Kalita Wave) and 18g of coffee to 270g of water. This is the same 1:15 ratio I use for my pourovers except I usually go with 30g of coffee and 450g of water. I also brewed a right-side-up AeroPress using the same ratio with a short brew time of about 2:00 but I found that did not produce nearly as nice of a cup.

First thing I found intriguing about this coffee was the gigantic tomato (think opening a can of stewed tomatoes to make sauce with) aroma on the whole beans, ground beans and even off the brew bed in the Gino while I was extracting my coffee! I’ve founds of tomato in other coffees, but never anything this obvious. Interestingly, none of that tomato flavor was in the flavor of the coffee whatsoever, but it was really apparent in the aroma on the beans.

In any case, I found this peaberry to be really delicious and well-balanced despite it’s overall brightness. The acidity was definitely in the lemon-lime category and it had a bit of grapefruit pith-like bitterness with it, which is a dimension I like when it’s a little more subtle as in this coffee. The acidity was fruity and sweet at the same time, though, so it didn’t come off as sour or unappealing in any way at all. I got some florals in the aroma and in the cooling cup and a plum-like sweetness and mouthfeel in the middle of the flavor. The body is relatively light on this coffee with a reasonably short aftertaste. As I type this and take several minutes between sips the long aftertaste has a sweet and slightly peppery flavor lingering on my palate.

This is a complex coffee that is beautifully roasted to highlight the soaring acidity of the SL-28 variety while maintaining delicate fruits and enough sweetness to balance the cup. It’s really delicious and inviting and while it is a structured and complex coffee, I found it to be easy to drink, too, which is usually not the case for me. While this coffee is sadly unavailable right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another Kenyan coffee from Compelling & Rich!