Workshop 2016 Kenyan Coffee Review
One of the things we look forward to in summer of the arrival of Workshop’s Kenyan coffees. The roastery’s emphasis on clean washed coffees with clarity of flavour and bright profile suits Kenyan coffee and it’s always a delight to see just what coffees Workshop bring for us to enjoy. So let us introduce you to the Gachatha AA, the Kagumoini AA and the Thunguri AA espresso.
If you’ve read any of our reviews of Kenyan coffee before, you’ll know that AA is a grade referring to the size of the bean. AA graded beans are usually priced higher and while not all AA beans are superior to other grades, it is a general mark of quality. The best Kenyan coffees benefit from superb volcanic terroirs with characteristic red soils, decades of experience by farms in developing growing and washing processes and the widespread use of the fruity SL-28 varietal that was developed in Kenya from plants originally grown in Tanzania to be disease resistant (and by good fortune, especially delicious).
If you like bright, juicy, blackcurranty espressos with a great balancing sweetness, we recommend popping into a Workshop for the intense experience their Thunguri AA provides. Workshop have a fairly large lot. Thunguri is from Nyeri and is a co-operative factory serving almost 700 smallholders who are paid premiums for quality and receive training which allows them to increase quality and yields and therefore income.
Cupping and brewing the Kagumoini AA filter, we really enjoyed the notes of black plum, raspberry and rhubarb with a subtle plum acidity. We found this a very special coffee – very balanced, juicy and sweet. It deserves brewing with a little extra care – we found the v60 brought out the best its flavour –especially when we hovered over it lovingly during the brew process.
Workshop point out that the Kagumoini factory in Murang’a, right by the border with Nyeri, should not be confused with the Kagumo-ini factory in Nyeri. The co-operative members have had to step up security because of coffee robberies at other factories – such is the value of coffee. Kagumoini offer premium prices for the best fruit to encourage quality.
Then there’s the Gachatha AA, a favourite from Workshop’s 2015 Kenyans and it’s back – and tasting quite different but possibly even more delicious. This one is very sweet and has a lovely mouthfeel and notes of stone fruit and pineapple cube candy with what is described very accurately as nectarine acidity. Even a brew that we botched tasted good but we’re not recommending that! This coffee stood out greatly among the coffees Workshop cupped at (importers) Dormans and we’re not surprised – this is a superb coffee.
Gachatha itself is a co-operative of over 1000 farms formed in 1963. It is in a densely populated area so takes care to minimise impact on others ensuring it has no impact on local drinking water. It has also taken great steps to protect indigenous trees that shade coffee plants and sustain bird life. Gachatha also reportedly passes on 90% of payment to their farmers, much higher than many other places.
It’s interesting to wonder about the extent of the role of Workshop’s new roastery in the clarity and complexity of these coffees. The new space in Bethnal Green is purpose built with a brand new P25 Probat roaster and a plethora of new quality control equipment – from moisture meters to colour analysers to an Ikawa sample roaster. They can sort green coffee for defects under UV light in a temperature regulated room. After initial experiments, they have reached a point where they feel in control of the range of impressive equipment they have been happier than ever before with the results of their work. Head of Quality James Bailey has written about that in their journal.
Varietal: SL28 & SL34 | Process: Multiple soaks and washes | Tasting notes: blackcurrant, vanilla, redcurrant
£9.50 for 250g from Workshop Coffee
Varietal: SL28, SL34, small amounts of Ruiru 11 & Batian | Process: Dry fermented, soaked and washed | Tasting notes: black plum, raspberry and rhubarb with a subtle plum acidity
£11.50 for 250g from Workshop Coffee
Varietal: SL28 & SL34 | Process: Dry fermented, soaked and washed | Tasting notes: stone fruit, pineapple cube candy and nectarine acidity
£12.50 for 250g from Workshop Coffee