Episode 699

Blackcurrant cheesecake! There's a mix of creamy sweetness along with brown sugar and digestive biscuit, whilst a fruity kick of blackcurrant balances it out, then a hint of greengage in there for good measure.

Kiriga Estate sits between 1,550 and 1,650 metres above sea level. It is approximately five kilometres from Thika town, which is an industrial town in the central province of Kenya. It's four kilometres from Blue Posts hotel, which has the famous Chania and Thika falls. Thika lies 50 kilometres northeast of Nairobi.

Administratively, Kiriga coffee estate is in the Gatanga constituency of Muranga county, and it's separated from Kiambu county by the Chania river.

Because Kenya is on the equator, coffee behaves a little differently here than in most other places. Rather than a single crop each year, it’s usual in Kenya to get both the Main Crop (harvested around December-January) and what is called the Fly (or Early) Crop (harvested around July-August). The Fly Crop is typically smaller than the Main Crop overall, but still adds up to a significant minority of the country’s total production. There’s a reputation that the coffees from the Fly Crop aren’t as good as from the Main Crop, but like a lot of commonly held opinions on coffee, that might not be correct.

We’ve always bought coffee from Kiriga Estate’s Main Crop, but whilst talk to the owner Dr Brian Gakunga, he mentioned that he’d seen the farm begin to produce more in the Fly Crop and less in the Main Crop. With the majority of his production now in the Fly Crop, it only made sense to taste the samples of that ourselves and we were really happy to find they taste identical to the Main Crop quality from the farm. We’re sure you’ll agree they’re delicious!

As to why the farm is shifting to produce more Fly Crop than Main Crop, there are a couple of possibilities. Climate change could be a factor and it certainly has shifted times of harvest and extended harvest periods in many countries. However, Brian also noted that he’d heard of farms shifting from Main Crop to Fly Crop and back again in the past and it could also be to do with the plants – their age, the way they’re being managed and so on. So we’re not certain why the shift has happened – we’re just really glad we could take this opportunity to have great coffee from the farm and to understand a little more about the amazing coffees it produces.

Like any natural product, each coffee bean is different - some bigger, some smaller, some longer, some rounder...that's lead coffee buyers many years ago to begin separating the coffee by the size of the bean.

Throughout the world, this is done by screens - like a stack of flat colanders, with each layer having slightly smaller holes in it than the layer above. Whatever the smallest size a bean passes through, that’s it’s size. In most places, they’re named by 1/64th inch - so a screen 18+ means all the beans are 18/64th of an inch or bigger. Simple, right?

Well...in Kenya they use the same screens, but give them different names. An “AA” is screen 17 and 18, an “AB” is screen 16 and 15 and anything smaller (but still a whole bean) is a “C”. There’s one more class you might have tried - “PB” or Peaberry. That’s a bit different again, but it’s usually separated from the other beans because the round cross-section of a peaberry lets it pass through the holes of a screen easily.

This year we have the AA, AB, C and Peaberry from Kiriga - so big beans, medium beans, little beans and even littler beans! Traditionally, the AA has got the highest prices (they’re about 15-20% of the crop), with AB being a bit cheaper and C going into commodity coffee. However, Brian from Kiriga sent us his C to try a few years ago and we were wowed - it’s really sweet and nice - so we began buying it and are super excited to have it again for another year. The Peaberry had been included in with the C in previous years due to the similar size and smaller harvests, however the two have now been separated out and there's enough of it to stand alone!

Blackcurrant cheesecake! There's a mix of creamy sweetness along with brown sugar and digestive biscuit, whilst a fruity kick of blackcurrant balances it out, then a hint of greengage in there for good measure.

  • Country: Kenya
  • Region: Central Province
  • District: Muranga
  • Constituency: Gatanga
  • Nearest town: Thika
  • Estate: Kiriga
  • Size: 51 hectares
  • Producer: Dr. Brian Gakunga
  • Altitude: 1,550–1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: SL28, SL34 & Ruiru 11
  • Size grading: AB
  • Processing method: Washed
  • GPS coordinates: 1°00'16.5"S 37°01'47.6"E


Blackcurrant, brown sugar, digestive biscuit, greengage

  • Clean cup: (1–8): 6
  • Sweetness: (1–8): 7
  • Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
  • Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
  • Flavour: (1–8): 6.5
  • Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
  • Balance: (1–8): 6.5
  • Overall: (1–8): 6.5
  • Correction:(+36): +36
  • Total (max. 100): 87

Roast Information
Medium to medium-dark - through first crack and push it fairly quickly towards the edge of second, but not into it. Lighter roasts will highlight sweetness, whilst a fraction further will give it a juicier body.