It has been a while since I had a Kenyan coffee to share with you, so it’s exciting to bring you Honest Coffee Roasters’ Kiangoi today. Honest Coffee Roasters are located in Franklin, Tennessee about 20 miles out of Nashville. They’ve made a big impression on the community there and I love what they’re doing with the website and social media, so check that out and get Honest’s story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak! The coffee I’m sharing with you today is their Kiangoi, a washed Kenyan that you can buy directly from Honest Coffee Roasters for $15.75/8.8oz bag.
The story of this coffee starts with the Rung’eto Farmers’ Cooperative Society, who planted their first coffee trees in 1953. Today, the society has 3011 members. Most Kenyan coffee farms are very small plots owned by individual farmers. These farmers pool their resources within the co-op, mixing their coffees into lots as well as sharing washing stations, or “factories” as they are called in Kenya, where the sorting and processing happen. Rung’eto owns three such factories, all located in the Kirinyaga region of central Kenya. Some of the most highly prized coffees from the country are grown in Kirinyaga and the growing, picking and processing practices Kenya is famous for comes through in almost every cup. Honest Coffee’s Kiangoi, a lot that originated in Rung’eto’s Kiangoi washing station, is comprised of the famous SL-28 varietal and grown around 1750masl.
SL-28 is a hybrid coffee developed by Scot Labs in the 1930’s as a high-yield, disease-resistant coffee. It gives Kenyan coffee its incredible clarity and brightness and it has been transplanted all over the world to see what it does in other environments. Honest Coffee gives descriptors of, “grapefruit, apple, lemonade” for this coffee, so let’s have a taste!
There’s something about Kenyan coffee that has a pretty characteristic aroma, and this one has it. It’s hard to tack it down with descriptors, but dry fragrance of the grounds as well as the aroma off the cup both sang of that signature Kenyan character. By the way, I used a 1:16 ratio in my notNeutral Gino with Kalita 185 filters to prepare my cups. Brew time was around 3:30-3:45 for my sample cups. As a side note, while I didn’t try this coffee in the AeroPress, that tends to be a great way to try Kenyan coffees, too.
Kenyan coffees are mostly prized for their bright acidity. This one offers a lot in that regard. Right out of the gate their is a grapefruit acidity with a bit of the bitterness that comes with it. It’s not harsh or biting, but it also doesn’t have that same sweet roundness of, say, pink grapefruit, but lands in the middle somewhere. This grapefruit vibe is really strong in the aftertaste, too, where that residual bitterness like I get from the pith of the fruit lays on the tongue. I try not to let bag descriptions color my impressions of a coffee, but this one is really dead-on accurate for me.
After that initial shot of grapefruit, a more malic type of acidity rolls in for the middle of the sip. Malic acidity is associated with apples and this is a soft, more red apple type of brightness along with a mouthfeel not unlike a glass of apple juice. Letting the coffee sit on the palate for a few seconds before swallowing is rewarded with the third descriptor Honest put on the bag, lemonade. A nice, very sweet, lemonade note is very evident in the end of the sip and then it rolls back to the grapefruit and slight pithy bitterness of the aftertaste I described earlier. The lemonade flavor in this coffee is almost like that feeling/flavor I get way in the back of my throat, almost in my nose, when I tear open a packet of lemonade mix. If you’ve ever experienced that then you know exactly what I’m trying to describe in this cup!
Honest Coffee Roasters weren’t lying (lol) when they called this a “fun” coffee! The amount of structure present in the cup is quite astonishing, with a very clear delineation, at for my palate, between grapefruit, apple and then lemonade acidity. It’s all tied together with a fruity sweetness and while this is a bright cup of coffee, it’s like candy at the same time. The structure it has reminds me of Bold Bean’s Finca Buenos Aires 3, a phenomenal cup of Colombian coffee that had slightly-underripe, then ripe and sweet, followed by slightly overripe and fermenty strawberry flavors in every sip. In the same way, this coffee goes through a very distinct and structured “lifecycle” of acidity.
This is a really special example of a Kenyan coffee. It’s delicious and it’s such a great example of what “structure” means in coffee. If that’s something you’ve wondered about, you need to get this coffee and that one I mentioned from Bold Bean and you will understand! I revisited this coffee as I wrote this article almost a month off-roast and it was still fantastic, so it holds up great with a bit of age, too.