Kenyan coffees are always among our favorites - bright, complex, and uniquely dynamic - and we're stoked to have Rachel and Stephen Gichuki's coffee back in the quiver.
Rachel and Stephen Gichuki live and farm in Nyeri County, and we first visited and roasted their coffee in 2019. Their coffee was a standout for us two years ago, and after some processing and storage challenges last year, we're glad to showcase the goods again. This year's coffee is juicy, sweet, and fruity, with notes of orange and ruby red grapefruit, fig, apricot, and molasses.
When we first met the Gichukis, we saw not only great coffee, but also a great opportunity for a longterm partnership. Rachel Gichuki, who divides her time between farming and teaching middle school geography up the road, hosted us for a few hours, explaining her challenges, her commitment to environmental sustainability, and her commitment to quality.
One of the challenges the Gichukis and many other Kenyan farmers face is theft. Coffee is a great way to make quick cash, and so theft of already-processed coffee is rampant. Two harvests ago thieves broke into the Gichuki family’s storage room and made off with almost half of the harvest. And last year, the Gichukis tried to avoid theft by moving coffee from the drying tables to locked storage every night, which led to some strange drying and off flavors in the coffee. We still bought their coffee, but it wasn't quite single origin quality.
This year, with new solutions to storage and farm security in place, the Gichukis seem to be back on track. We're excited to continue working with them, and are thoroughly enjoying this harvest from their farm. Good people, and juicy, bright, and complex coffee for us to enjoy here in Colorado!
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Familia Reyes is in-your-face, fruity, and tropical - easily one of the wilder Colombias we've roasted at Huck! If you're looking for a coffee that's classic or traditional, you might want to look at other Latin American coffees in our lineup, but if you want to go for a ride, read on.
At it's most basic level, washed coffee goes through the following steps:
1. Harvest the coffee.
2. Depulp the cherry skin from the seed, usually the same day that the coffee is picked.
3. Allow the remaining fruit (called mucilage or honey) to ferment and break down over 12-48 hours.
4. Wash off the mucilage using clean water.
5. Dry the coffee in its final protective layer, called parchment.
6. Mill the parchment off of the coffee just before export.
That's admittedly a gross oversimplification, and there have always been variations on this process, from country to country and from farm to farm. But that's the basic idea. And over the past few years, we've seen producers push the fermentation step in novel ways, removing oxygen or sealing off the coffee during fermentation, keeping the coffee in its cherry for longer before depulping, inoculating fermentation tanks with yeast, using fancy-but-largely-inaccurate scientific buzzwords to attach a label to the process, etc.
Some of these experiments are gross. But with a bit of luck and calculated approach to experimentation, more and more of these processing variations are tasting great, rather than simply interesting. And while we're never put the word "anaerobic" on our bags (because it seems to mean something completely different on every farm) more and more of our coffees are washed, but with some deviation from the norm in fermentation.
In this case, the Familia Reyes - a family Nariño who farm and process their coffee together - stretched fermentation both before and after depulping. After picking, they keep their coffee in-cherry for three days, depulp, then ferment for another 3 days prior to washing. It's risky, but the cool temperatures in Nariño help keep the process in check, and the result is a coffee that's definitely fruity, definitely funky, but keeps those flavors in balance.
This will be Huck's second coffee from La Union de Nariño, an association in Southern Colombia. It follows Segundo Grijalba from a few years back, and comes our way through La Real Expedición Botánica. LaREB is a collective of coffee growers who have banded together to export their coffee and keep more of the value at the farm level, and we've been impressed with their experimental - but actually good! - coffees from the get-go. Keep an eye out for more LaREB at Huck, including a coffee from Marisela Sanchez in Huila and our Skeleton Key Decaf, produced by Ana Mustafa.
For Familia Reyes, expect the unexpected. We're tasting tropical fruit candy (we would've put Sweet Tarts on the bag if we weren't worried about a cease-and-desist), honey, and grape soda in our mugs. It's out there for sure, but it's the good kind of wild.
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Santa Maria is back, and we're excited to have both Cooperativa de Caficultores de Dota (CoopeDota) specifically, and Central American coffees generally, back in the roastery! Global shipping is a mess, we've been waiting far too long for this coffee!
2021 is our fifth harvest roasting up tasty goodness from CoopeDota, and the village of Santa Maria, and this is the more comforting of the two coffees we'll roast up from the cooperative. Keep an eye out for El Cedral, a big, delicious natural from the group, too.
Each year we refine our offerings from Dota a bit, and 2021 is no different. CoopeDota washes all of its coffees using an Eco-Pulper - a machine that uses significantly less water to remove the coffee's fruit and mucilage from the bean. While it's not necessary with this machine, the cooperative does give its microlots a chance to ferment before washing, which tends to boost complexity. But, the cooperative does dry the majority of its coffee on patio, occasionally resorting to mechanical dryers when there's less room on the drying patios.
Last year we asked (and paid a premium for) the cooperative to dry our coffee on raised beds, because in our limited experience, coffees dried slowly, on raised beds, tend to taste better, for longer, than coffee dried more quickly on patios or in mechanical dryers. This year we stayed that course, but the cooperative also separated out our lot from an area called El Vapor, the highest hillside in the Santa Maria area.
Beyond their willingness to try something new for us, we're also excited to work with CoopeDota because the group has always been a sustainability leader in Costa Rica. In 2011 the cooperative produced the world's first certified carbon-neutral coffee, and is known for its work to reduce both its carbon and water footprints.
2021 Santa Maria has a lot going for it - milk-friendly chocolate and hazelnut flavors, creamy body and depth, with subtle pear and vanilla. It's a crowd-pleaser, perfect for kicking off the long-awaited Central season here at Huck!
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It’s been a couple years, but Aramo is back at Huck! We’ve been looking forward to coffee from the Yirgacheffe Coffee Famers Cooperative Union. This washed coffee is deliciously floral and refreshing, and we’re also looking forward to using Aramo Natural in Phantom Limb and a single farmer natural from the cooperative union this year!
Aramo is one of the 22 cooperatives that make up the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, a longstanding leader in organic farming and sustainable agriculture in the region. While Huck roasts coffees from both private washing stations and cooperatives, we’re always happy to support YCFCU, and incorporate their coffees into our single origin lineup or Phantom Limb whenever we can. Last year at YCFCU was tough, and we weren’t able to buy any of their coffee, largely due to leadership changes at the Union. But with Erkehun Woldegiorgis taking over as managing director, YCFCU seems to be climbing back from its challenges, the coffee is delicious, and we’re excited to support and showcase cooperative-produced coffee in our lineup.
The Aramo Cooperative sits in the kebele (village) of the same name, above the famous Yirgacheffe woreda. Over 2000 farmers deliver cherry to the cooperative, where the coffee is depulped, washed, dried, stored, and sorted under the watchful eye of cooperative manager Negusse Hordfa. In addition to Negusse and cooperative members’ attention, Aramo is one of the highest cooperatives in the region, with farms ranging from 1800-2000+ meters above sea level. Altitude is far from the only factor, but it certainly contributes to the amazing flavors in the cup
We’re tasting ripe yellow peach, assorted florals, sweet tea, and tangerine in this gem from Aramo, and are looking forward to showcasing this coffee on its own for a few months, and using it as the backbone for Phantom Limb for a bit longer. Aramo is the second of several washed Ethiopias we’ll roast up this year, it’s tasty af, and we’re excited that Aramo cooperative and YCFCU are on the come-up again!
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