Discovery Subscription (2021, 6) - A taste of place

A taste of place

  • This month we are sharing coffees from Kenya and Peru.

  • Both of these countries have coffee landscapes with a strong focus on cooperatives.

  • However, each of these lots was produced by a single grower from a single plot of land.

  • Bryce Harries and his team have two estates located just outside Thika, Chania and Oreti.

  • This lot is a typical washed Kenya, with crisp citrus and ripe berries balanced by a rich caramel sweetness.

  • Esther Fernandez’s farm in the Cajamarca region of Peru has produced this delicate tropical fruit driven washed Catimor.

1 x coffee

Chania - Washed Estate Blend (250g / 8.8oz)

2 x coffee

Chania - Washed Estate Blend (250g / 8.8oz)
Esther Fernandez - Washed Catimor (250g / 8.8oz)

Two talented single producers

Although Kenya’s cooperative system is a well known feature of its coffee growing landscape, many other countries also have systems where lots are created from the work of multiple producers. Although this can result in delicious coffees, we often miss out on the real ‘taste of place’ from a specific farm, and the craft of a specific producer in the creation of a lot. We are also prevented from fostering a relationship with a specific producer, based on a mutual understanding of quality. Here, we showcase the work of two talented single producers, in countries with strong cooperative structures.

First coffee
Chania - Washed Estate Blend

Single farm lot from Kenya

The Harries family have been living in Kenya since 1904, initially moving to the country from South Africa. The current owner, Boyce Harries, is the fifth generation of the family to farm coffee here. They purchased a small plot of land near Thika, and initially grew several crops, including pineapples and agave. They moved further and further towards coffee in the years that followed, purchasing their first dedicated coffee estate, Chania, in 1926, named for the Chania river that it draws water from. In 1946, Boyce’s grandfather Peter Harries finished his studies in New Zealand and moved to Kenya along with his wife, a New Zealander. They purchased a new estate, slightly smaller and further up the ridge from Chania, and named it ‘Oreti’, a Maori name meaning ‘a place of danger and natural beauty’. Today they still grow coffee on both of these estates, and while we have purchased lots from Oreti in the past, this lot was grown at Chania. The lot is a varietal blend, made up of SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 and SL14. SL14 is seen very rarely, an early selection of Bourbon from Scott Laboratories which was mainly superseded by SL28 and SL34 after they were found to yield better and tolerate disease. The Harries family have kept a small plot of SL14 on the Oreti Estate however, as they believe the cup quality is slightly higher than the varietal’s more modern counterparts. This washed lot has a rather typical Kenyan feel, with berries and citrus balanced by a rich caramel sweetness.

Second coffee
Esther Fernandez - Washed Catimor

Lively tropical notes from Peru

Esther Fernandez grew up on a coffee farm, so has known coffee agriculture all her life. It was not an easy childhood, Esther often had to miss school in order to work, helping the family business to put enough food on the table. She was engaged by the time she was 17, and inherited the family farm when she was only 25. She has since become divorced, and has two grown-up children. She is particularly proud of her independence both in her business and personal life, relishing the nickname her neighbours have given her, Doña Fernandez. Esther is so proud of this name that she also uses it for her farm. She is slowly renovating the land, having built her house here, begun raising cattle and renewing the coffee plant stock. The high altitude, alongside cool conditions and a very low-chemical and bio-diverse approach in the field, leads to a very high quality of raw material. Esther’s dedication of course also plays a part here, and this continues into processing, using a rather rudimental set of tools in order to carefully unveil the character of her coffees without exposing ferment character in the cup. Esther has been a member of Coopagro since 2019, and they have helped her to recognise the quality of her work and continue to improve. Maintaining separation of small lots like Esther’s is not so popular here in rural northern Peru, so the work of Coopagro and our partners at Belco is very important in order to create a continuing incentive to produce quality coffees.

The quality of Esther’s work in the field means that only very minimal influence is required from fermentation in order to create a balanced and flavourful cup, here reminding us of fresh and crisp tropical fruit with a delicate tea-like character. One of the finest coffees we have tasted from Peru in the years we have been watching this origin.

This month

The unique opportunity to export micro-lots

It is well known that Kenya’s coffee production operates almost exclusively on a system of farmer’s cooperatives, where members deliver their cherry to central stations to be processed. This system, although still resulting in some of our favourite coffees, results in a loss of traceability, muddying the work of the individual farmer and the terroir of their specific plot. The Harries family own some of the very few coffee estates in Kenya, so are able to produce coffee outside this system. They take care of each step of the process themselves, from tree to export, so have a great deal of control over the final cup profile. This level of control allows the Harries the unique opportunity to create and export micro-lots, with specific varietals or new processing methods. This level of creativity and agility is not seen in the larger scale cooperative system in Kenya, which relies on consistency in larger lots in order to create secure income for the coop’s members.

The incredible quality potential of Peru

Peru is also a rather interesting coffee growing country. In the wider coffee market it is known for very low-price certified coffee, such as Organic, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance. Although not quite to the same extent as Ethiopia and Kenya, Peru exports mainly cooperative lots, those pooled together from thousands of rural smallholders in order to create these low cost certified coffees. It is a rather new player in the specialty market; the cooperative system that allows Peru to produce these coffees so cheaply muddies the transparency of the market here, just as it does in Kenya. Many cooperatives work in the speciality market, but produce large volumes of coffee in the lower end of specialty, in the 80-84 point range. Apart from lost traceability, the issue with this from a buyer’s point of view is the lack of opportunity to create relationships with individual producers based on a mutual understanding of quality. If the same price is available at a cooperative, based purely on physical quality of coffee, rather than carefully created cup quality, then there is no financial incentive to create high-quality separated lots. However, this is beginning to change, and due to the work of several dedicated groups, the incredible quality potential of Peru is starting to be realised through intensive work with talented individuals like Esther Fernandez.

A taste of place

Although cooperative systems can produce delicious coffees, we often miss out on the real ‘taste of place’ from a specific farm, and the craft of a specific producer in the creation of a lot. We are also prevented from fostering a relationship with a specific producer, based on a mutual understanding of quality. Here, we showcase the work of two talented single producers, in countries with strong cooperative structures.
We hope you enjoy the work of both the Harries family and Esther Fernandez this month.

Stay bright and curious La Cabra

About Discovery

About Discovery

The opportunity to share new experiences

Our Discovery Subscription allows us the opportunity to share new experiences with you every month, taking you with us on our journey through the changing seasons of coffee. This allows you the opportunity to taste new lots from across the coffee landscape as they arrive at our roastery, when they’re fresh and in season. We strive to find the most delicious and thought-provoking coffees we can get our hands on, working together with a group of innovative and dedicated partners we have met over our years in the industry. We are inspired not only by sharing their painstakingly created raw material, but by conveying how each step of its journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.

We always aim to tell a story

One of the best ways to appreciate the effect of these factors is to taste coffees side by side. Our most popular option allows you to experience two coffees every month, maybe different varietals or processes from the same farm or region, or maybe two parallel lots from producers at opposite ends of the coffee belt. We always aim to tell a story with our coffee choice, focusing on a different aspect of what we’re finding exciting in coffee right now. Sharing these experiences each month allows us to expand our coffee horizons together, and develop a shared vocabulary within both taste and preference in coffee.

We’re always happy to continue our conversation with you through our webshop portal, whether it be purely practical, or discussions about this month’s coffees. We see our role as simply a middleman between you and some of the best coffees in the world, and the people who produce them. These people inspire us, and we do our utmost to share both their coffees and their stories with the people who appreciate them most.