This is the question I get asked the most. In the fast-changing, increasingly trendy world of premium and specialty coffee, there are hundreds of opinions from the “experts.”
The truth is, the only way to have a coffee – no matter what anyone tells you – is the way you enjoy it. My mom likes her cappuccino with two sugars, while our General Manager is a no-nonsense Americano-with-no-milk-please drinker; then there are the espresso-only cyclists, while I enjoy a flat white every morning. Your way is the right way.
The Premium Coffee Revolution
Coffee has been around for millenia. It’s the holy grail for those who switch on their coffee machine in a zombie-like state, while for others it’s their morning fuel, powering them through the school run, traffic-jam commute, and a whole barrage of Zoom meetings.
In the last decade – alongside craft beer – premium coffee has seen a resurgence in popularity and over the last five years, this trend has made its way into the Kenyan café scene.
Not only have we seen large coffee shop chains, such as Java and Artcaffé, open up new cafes on a monthly basis, but there has also been a proliferation of boutique coffee shops popping up around the country.
The Perfect Cup of Coffee: A Masterful 3-Step Journey
The truth is, there are three key factors to ensure one enjoys an incredible cup of coffee. These are:
1. The Farmer
The first step is the farmer. Farmers typically wait 4 years before a coffee bush bears fruit, which means that after investing time, money, and resources to tenderly nurture their crops, farmers harvest only twice a year. Like wine, the weather and terroir are significant factors, resulting in a range of bean sizes and quality.
Debunking the myth of “AA” Coffee
It is worth debunking the myth that “AA” is a moniker of quality. In reality, it’s an indication of size. While size does somewhat correlate to quality, it is by no means the only indicator. Other factors that are critical to identifying and sourcing a high-quality bean include:
- Bean varietals
So, while “Kenya AA” sounds great, by no means does it guarantee you’ll enjoy the highest quality coffee out there!
Next is the roasting. There is a lot of science behind roasting, given the numerous variables at play such as temperature, time, and humidity. Roasting can be done manually or it can be completely automated with cutting-edge roasting technology.
Coffee Roasting is an Art Form
Roasting is a craft that is developed over time, learned on the job, and cultivated through years of experience. It’s a time-honoured skill that many claim to have, but few truly master. A sensory explosion of sounds, colours, and smells, master roasters know how to capture the right balance and roast each variety of coffee to extract its best attributes.
Our Team of Expert Roasters
We are fortunate that our team has been together for twelve years, producing every batch of freshly roasted coffee by hand, and we recently purchased a new roaster to increase our capacity (simply a larger version of the same manual roaster). While we are using technology to generate data to inform how we roast, the final decision is always left to the person roasting that day – be it Mohammed, Godwin, or Fred.
3. Coffee Extraction
The final step is coffee extraction. This is the magic of the barista – and it isn’t easy! These days, so many people are fixated on latte art, but it’s the coffee equivalent to icing on the cake: if what’s inside isn’t good, the rest doesn’t matter.
The Magic of the Barista
Baristas train for months – sometimes even years – to be able to craft the perfect cup of coffee. Starting with the bean, he/she will adjust the grinder based on temperature and humidity to get the correct grind size and quantity (usually 7g-9g). This is extracted for 20-25 seconds to create the perfect “shot” – typically 30ml of espresso with a little crema on the top. Simultaneously, the barista is steaming milk to top-up your coffee of choice with the perfectly proportioned amount of milk.
The combination of these three elements results in the perfect cup of coffee every single time. Coffee is a plant, and like any natural ingredient, it can vary widely. The art is in passionately sourcing, fanatically roasting to perfection, and extracting with precision, to hand-craft the perfect coffee drink.
Quality Trumps Quantity Every Time
Since the advent of large chain coffee shops, there has been a fixation on size. While value-for-money is important, what makes every coffee drink unique is its flavour profile and composition, and the resulting size.
- A cappuccino is delicious because it’s balanced with ⅓ coffee, ⅓ steamed milk, and ⅓ foam;
- A latte is the perfect comfort drink on a cold day with a greater proportion of milk and the same amount of coffee – hence the larger size;
- A flat white is punchy thanks to the two shots of coffee that make up 40% of the beverage.
For those interested in a truly exquisite cup of coffee, remember: quality always trumps quantity.
The Journey of Your Coffee Cup
While waiting for your next cup of coffee, we hope that you will take a moment to think about the masterful hands that your coffee has been tended by: carefully grown and picked by a farmer on the rolling hills of the highlands, hand-roasted with love in a quaint roastery on the outskirts of Nairobi, and extracted with precision and skill by your barista.