Last year Jenny Howell went on her annual coffee buying trip to Kenya. Getting Mamuto – a consistently great coffee every year – was a no-brainer – but we were looking for other great lots as well. During the few days she was there she cupped through several hundred coffee lots; one in particular caught her attention and she purchased it without hesitation. That turned out to be our current Karatu AA.
Later that summer this Karatu was one of twelve final contestants in the annual Dorman’s Coffee Competition for best coffee lot of the year. Dorman’s Coffee is a Kenya coffee exporter which has completely and deservedly dominated the Kenya specialty coffee market since the 1980’s
Each year samples, identified only by a capital letter, of what the Dorman’s team deems to be the best coffees purchased by them are sent to key specialty clients around the world, including us of course, who then cup and score them. These scores together with the Dorman’s team scores result in identifying the winners. Last year Mamuto won third place (it has often won in the top five, including first) and the Karatu we purchased took first! Great catch, Jenny!
A description of this coffee and the cooperative wet mill can be found here. I find it particularly worth comparing to the Mamuto. They are both great Kenyas, having the same mix of varieties – the majority being the famed SL-28 with some SL-34 and very little Ruiru 11. Mamuto, however, is grown at around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) while Karatu is grown at over 6,000 feet (1,800+ meters), quite high! Neither is superior to the other, in my opinion; both exhibit characteristics in keeping with their altitudes. The Mamuto is saturated with bottomless, echoing sweet dark blackberry through and through. The Karatu has brighter sweet tangerine and floral strawberry notes mingled in. Both are wonderfully sweet and velvety. Tasting these two coffees side by side gives a good idea of the range of only the most finely crafted Kenya coffees and the role that altitude plays.
Happy coffee tasting!