When people deeply committed to something collaborate on their passion, you know the results are going to be satisfying, to say the least. That’s what we have with today’s coffee, sourced from Burundi by an American couple trying to make a difference in peoples’ lives and roasted right here in Kansas City by obsessives. The coffee is Long Miles Coffee Project’s Ninga Peaberry and the roasters are Oddly Correct, mainstays on the Kansas City scene and one of my favorite roasters and shops to visit. Today’s coffee, Ninga Peaberry, can be purchased directly from Oddly Correct for $19/12oz and it’s a stunner.
Long Miles Coffee Project is a story best told in their own words. Check out the background info and the blog, which features Kristy Carlson’s photography. By the way, the woodcut and letterpressed bag for this coffee, both of which are done by Oddly Correct principal, Greg Kolsto, feature Kristy. The short version of the story is that Kristy and her husband, Ben, founded the Long Miles Coffee Project a few years ago and moved their family to Burundi, officially the poorest country on Earth. Amidst revolution, gunfire and abject poverty, their mission is to help the people of Burundi live better lives through a crop they’re already growing: coffee. Burundi has the potential to grow some of the best coffee in the world, but because of the poverty and lack of infrastructure, getting it out of the country, not to mention educating the people about harvesting and processing, was the problem. The Carlson’s are not only educating farmers and paying good prices for their coffee, but they set up their own washing stations and are managing their own farms, too.
If it sounds like a couple of privileged Americans sipping lemonade on the expansive veranda of their estate home while servants run around doing everything for them, you need to see the reality of the situation on the blog and you’ll have a deeper appreciation for their dedication. The family fled the country late last year because of a violent coup that was underway. Yet, despite the adversity, they were back in Burundi in January.
So, this is the kind of people we’re dealing with here. Now couple that with the gang at Oddly Correct, who woodcut images and letterpress every bag by hand, source unusual coffees and roast them to perfection and you start to see the potential for this match-up.
The Ninga Peaberry comes from Ninga Hill and was processed at Long Miles’ own Bukeye washing station (or is it Buckeye? I’ve seen it spelled both ways…). Growing altitude is around 1800masl and this is classic Burundi Bourbon from the Kayanza region. Oddly give us tasting notes of, “Cola and plum sweetness, dried cranberry, raisin and cocoa nib.” Quick review of peaberries… most coffee cherry fruits have two seeds in the middle, what we call “coffee beans.” Because they are pressed up against one another as they grow, these seeds have the characteristic coffee shape of round on one side and flat on the other. Peaberries are coffee cherries that only have one seed, so they are round, sort of American football shaped when roasted. It’s common to sort out peaberries in Kenya, Tanzania and other countries. Some people feel that the single bean gets all of the goodness of the fruit unlike how it’s shared between two seeds in a normal coffee cherry, but that is not likely. They are cool as hell to look at, though!
I used my usual pourover method for my samples: 1:16 ratio (28g coffee, 450g water) using a notNeutral Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters. Total brew time is around 3:45 with that method. The dry fragrance from the grinds was all raisin and this coffee smelled great even before the water hit it. In the cup, I was getting way a way more tropical vibe than Oddly’s tasting notes suggested. The aroma in the cup was pineapple and mango with a strange mint undertone. I got some weird aroma and flavors from the other Long Miles/Oddly Correct coffee I reviewed recently, but this “strange” (it was pleasant and mysterious) aroma didn’t stick around for long in the Ninga cup. I worked around it on the Gishubi Hill coffee by using an AeroPress recipe instead of the pourover.
Anyway, a strange, but interesting and certainly not off-putting aroma and the coffee seemed quite tropical, too. It’s both a bright and sweet cup with the acidity coming in very pineapple-like for me. I just couldn’t shake the “feel” and flavor of pineapple throughout the entire temperature range of this coffee. I was getting a hint of tartness on the sides of my tongue and that juicy cheek-attack/salivation thing that happens to me with pineapple. I went into it expecting the darker fruits mentioned on the bag and website but I really found the tropics in this cup! The sweetness I was getting was the inherent sugariness from tropical fruits, again like that pineapple. There is a bit of cocoa and even milk chocolate in the aftertaste. The second half of the sip had some cranberry tartness, so I definitely found that from the bag description, and there was something else in there that I had trouble putting my finger on. It was almost a baking spice note, but not quite. It was sweet and had a baked goods, cookie/cake sort of thing going on. A few more sips and it struck me as being a bit like a cross between a graham cracker and an animal cracker.
All this sounds kind of strange, I’ll bet, but it is what it is! I really, really liked this coffee! It’s bright and, at least to me, super tropical. All that tropical brightness has a pinch of tart acidity I love (and I think that’s why the pineapple association was so strong for me) as well as a sweetness that is borderline cloying. It’s like drinking a cup of fruit juice. The graham/animal cracker and cocoa/milk chocolate tones give it a bunch of complexity and this was just a fantastic cup from beginning to end. If you’re deciding between the Gishubi Hill or the Ninga Peaberry, they were both really good, but my money would be on this Ninga Peaberry. Fantastic job from Oddly Correct and Long Miles Coffee Project on this coffee! Outstanding!