The Second Window
In the past, Kenyan coffees were traded exclusively through an auction system, where green buyers from all over the world had the opportunity to bid on lots from individual producers, factories (coffee mils), and/or cooperatives.
Many have accredited this system for the consistency and quality that Kenyan coffees are known for; however, over the last 15 years a growing number of producers, exporters, and importers have abandoned the auction format in favor of a new purchasing system.
Widespread corruption had led to many famers being cheated out of a large portion of the auction price of their coffees, so much so that in 2006 a law was passed that allowed private export companies to trade coffee directly with producers.
Known as “the Second Window” this practice has now become the preferred way that specialty grade coffee is traded. It helps to ensure that farmers and/or cooperative unions receive a high percentage of sale price for their coffee and it allows more direct relationships to be formed between producers and roasters; simplifying the supply chain.
This lot in particular was produced by a number of smallholder producers, all of whom are members of the Mitaboni Farmers’ Cooperative Society. These farmers live in the hills to the southeast of Nairobi and deliver their coffee to the Kalua Coffee Factory for post-harvest processing.
The area is not as well-known as the nearby Kiambu and Embu regions, however its high altitude and rolling hills are well suited for the production of high quality coffee.
Screen-sizing in Kenya
During the process of preparing coffee for export, beans are sorted by size using a system of screens. These screens are essentially large metal sheets with very specifically sized holes (down to 1/64 of an inch) punched through them.
The exact size is determined by passing coffee through screens until it won’t go through the next-smaller size. For example, if a coffee passes through a size 18 (18/64 inch) screen but not a size 16 (16/64 inch wide), it’s graded as size 18.
Though these grades are considered to be standardized across different origins, certain countries, such as Kenya, opt for lettered grades rather than numeric ones.
Coffees with AA grades (larger screen sizes) often command higher prices than AB lots (smaller screen sizes), even though this grade is not a sole indication of cup quality, and an AB lot that comes from skilled producers can also present more pleasant flavor qualities.
Let's brew Kalua AA
This AA lot from the folks at the Kalua Factory is exactly what one would hope for in a high quality Kenyan coffee; complex, vibrant, and strikingly sweet.
Pour Over preparation will produce a cup with a pleasant floral aromatics, combined with the acidity of dried fruit, and the rich sweetness of maraschino cherries. As the cup cools the comforting qualities of vanilla become more prominent.
The AeroPress will yield a similar cup with a dense, cream-like mouthfeel, and pleasant aftertaste. Expect prominent stone fruit notes, such as peach and cherry; combined once again with delicate flavor of vanilla.