Karani AA – Kenya – Gardelli Specialty Coffees
This coffee was produced from trees of the admired heirloom SL28 and SL34 varieties of Arabica, and processed at the Karani wet mill. Despite challenges ranging from unclear government coffee policy and urban encroachment on prime coffee lands to chronically unstable weather, the famed Kenya coffee auction system and its participating cooperatives continue to produce some of the world’s most elegant and distinctive coffees. AA is the highest grade of Kenya coffee based on bean size and fewest physical imperfections.
Karani is located in Kirinyaga County in the Central highlands of Kenya. It is one of 10 factories that form the Kabare Cooperative Society.
The Karani factory is a set in a beautiful, fertile and forested location and is surrounded by thousands of smallholder subsistence farmers who grow coffee as a cash crop alongside potatoes, bananas, mangoes, avocados and some livestock – usually a cow or two for diary production and chickens for eggs and meat. The average altitude of these smallholdings is approximately 1,500 MASL, a factor which contributes to the fine flavour of the coffee. The growers have the advantage of deep and rich soils that were created from the ash of the extinct volcano – Mount Kenya.
The Karani factory, which was established in 1968, is managed by David Mwendia who has held that position since 2008. David is focused on producing high quality coffee so is strict with deliveries by smallholders to the factory, allowing only very ripe, red cherry to be processed. Farmers must tip their cherries onto a tarpaulin sheet for inspection and further sorting before the coffee can be weighed and submitted to the pulper hoppers.
SL28 was bred by Scott Laboratories in 1931 from Tanganyika D.R, and has become very popular throughout Kenya and is recognised as a variety of exceptional cup quality. It has wide leaves with coppery tips. Beans are wide and productivity comparatively low. Though it is not substantiated that we can find, some sources claim that Scott Labs crossed mutations of French Mission, Mocha and Yemen Typica to produce the SL 28 variety. No matter the exact genetic composition, almost certainly their original goal was to create a plant with high quality, reasonable productivity and great drought resistance.
SL 34 is a mutation of French Mission, originating from the plantation of Loresho in Kabete, SL 34 has wide leaves with bronzy tips. It is widely grown throughout Kenya. SL 34 is valued for its high productivity in different climate conditions and great height ranges. It is also claimed to be resistant towards draught and strong rainfall.
The Fermentation Process
After harvesting the coffee is delivered to the factory and undergoes the wet processing method, water is pumped to the reservoir tanks for pulping and recirculation. After pulping the coffee is stored overnight, washed, soaked and spread on the drying on tables. The parchment is then frequently turned on the drying tables, sorted and then stored whilst it awaits delivery to the millers.