A sad day is upon us, dear readers! We’ve come to the last of the coffees sent by Minneapolis roaster, Nordskogen Coffee, and this coffee just sold out and isn’t available anymore. Dang, but also congratulations to Nordskogen! It’s a good problem, trust me! This review will still help you make informed decisions about Nordskogen Coffee and we have another Gatomboya from Sabbath Coffee in the pipeline, so it will be a cool opportunity for comparison. As usual, here are your links of interest and let’s check out this coffee!
NORDSKOGEN COFFEE KENYA GATOMBOYA
Kenyan coffees are always fun to drink, for me. They’re bright, vivacious, often juicy, complex, sweet, citrusy… yum! For their Kenyan offering, Nordskogen chose a Gatomboya AB. Gatomboya is the name of the washing station where the primarily smallholder farmers collect their coffee and sort into lots and process. In Kenya, it’s still part of the coffee business to separate lots by bean sizes, too, with AA being the largest and PB, or peaberry, being the smallest. So, an AB lot like this one features large beans. This grading is not a sign of quality in the least. I’ve had great AA, AB, PB lots… the size of the coffee has little to do with anything. I will say Kenyan coffees are quite beautiful to look at because of this size screening, featuring amazing consistency in the bag sheerly in terms of the look of the beans.
In any case, Gatomboya is in the Nyeri region of Kenya which is situated in the central highlands of the country and is coffee growing ground zero in Kenya! Like a lot of coffees from this area, this lot contained the famed SL-28 and SL-34 varietals. Perhaps more than any other variety of coffee, SL-28 is synonymous with the flavor profile we’ve come to expect from Kenyan specialty coffee. The variety was hybridized in the 1930’s by Scott Laboratories to be a strong, high-yield and drought resistant coffee plant. It failed on the yield part, but SL-28 took to the soil and conditions of Kenya and it’s quality is self-evident, when roasted properly.
And that’s where Nordskogen comes into the story! Matt gives us a flavor description of, “Bright and syrupy. Balanced citrus, orange and grapefruit” for this coffee. Like his other two coffees he sent, this one had a light roast and the beans were hard and dense. Because of the density of this coffee, it bogged down in the notNeutral Gino pourover a little. Usually I come in around 3:30 or so for a 1:16 brew (28g of coffee, 450g water), but this one stopped dripping around the 3:45-3:50 timeframe. It made good cups, though, so it didn’t seem to overextract, to my palate at least!
This coffee had “classic Kenya” written all over it for me. The flavors were simultaneously aggressive yet totally palatable and delicious. The acidity featured a lot of grapefruit and orange notes, with the orange being more up front in the sip and tied in with the inherent sweetness of the cup, giving it sort of an OJ vibe. The grapefruit came in more in the aftertaste, having a little sharper citrus component with a touch of bitterness (a good thing) and reminding me of the pith on the inside of the grapefruit peel. I loved that!
Kenyan coffees are all about the acidity, for the most part, but the roaster needs to balance all that brightness with enough sweetness, too, or it’s tough to drink more than a couple ounces. Nordskogen did just that, bringing in a substantial sweetness on the low end to offset all those bright citrus notes. I got a lot of raisin in the sweetness and a bit of a caramel undertone, too.
All in all, this was a delicious, easy to drink coffee that had a great balance of complexity, familiarity, brightness and sweetness. One of my favorite Kenyans in recent memory, and a great way to end my time with Nordskogen Coffee (for now, hopefully this isn’t the last coffee we see from them).
All in all, I was really impressed by the roasting that Matt from Nordskogen did on these coffees. The Colombia Los Santos was insanely bright and lemony, yet sweet and delicious, too. The Ethiopia Yukro had floral notes and was like a restrained, delicate Kenyan more than a tea-like, Earl Grey-ish washed Ethiopian and this Gatomboya was a masterpiece of balance and complementary flavors. Nordskogen roasts in the “Nordic” style, but I didn’t get a hint of grassy flavors, sourness or the hated peanut butter of an under-roasted/unroasted coffee. Despite roasting light, the development on the beans was top-notch and it was good to see really light coffees that are still sweet, well-roasted, have nice body, etc. That doesn’t happen without a lot of work, so kudos to Matt!