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Farmer: Harries Family
250 gr Whole bean :
1kg whole bean :
Notes Of A Roaster From The Underground: sweet spices, tomato hazelnut
OMNIROAST or "absolute peak". We do not have different roasting profiles for espresso and drip brewing methods. We believe in their harmony. We underline the fact that you do not have to drink burnt coffee if you are drinking espresso or "sour" coffee if you are drinking drip coffee. Highlighting a cliche: "One day everybody will roast omni".
Boyce Harries is the 5th generation of the family to manage the two Chania and Oreti plantations. These two farms are the last remaining medium-sized farms in Kenya. This varietal blend microlot variety is kenyan washed processed. You can find more information about "kenyan washed" process below.
The Oreti Estate farm has been owned by the Harries family for several generations. It is one of the last two remaining medium-sized farms in Kenya and is located on deep volcanic red soils. This small 35-hectare farm (which is in fact a large farm by Kenyan standards) was named after New Zealand’s Oreti Beach, where Boyce’s grandfather met his grandmother for the first time. Peter Harries decided to plant 17 hectares of SL14 alongside the SL28 in 1961. Although particularly susceptible to disease, the family has kept this variety because it’s of a higher quality than SL28.
The Harries family also owns the Chania farm, and 80 hectares of indigenous forests planted to encourage biodiversity currently cover the two farms combined.
Today, over 50% of the Chania and Oreti farms are planted with Red Bourbon. The rest is a mix of Ruiru 11 (resistant
variety), K7 (rust resistant), SL28 (susceptible to disease but known for its cup quality) and the new Batian variety. The farms have 40 full-time staff, but employ up to 300 people during harvests to select and prepare the coffees. The farm has opened its own nursery school to take care of its employees’ children.
All the coffee is picked entirely by hand and processed on site. Most are washed, but Boyce also produces natural and honey-processed coffees as well as microlots of specific varieties.
The Harries family has been living in Kenya, in the town of Thika (Central Province), since 1904. It owns two plantations there: Chania and Oreti. These two farms are the last remaining medium-sized farms in Kenya and are currently owned by Boyce Harries, who belongs to the family’s 5th generation of coffee producers.
The Harries family grows varieties that are quite unusual for Kenya, including SL14 and Red Bourbon. It is the last to still produce the SL14 variety, which was the first “SL” to be cultivated in Kenya. SL14 is particularly weak, so it has been gradually replaced in Kenya with the SL28 and SL34 varieties, which are more climate hardy and produce higher yields.
Belco first got to know the Harries family a few years ago. They were so well-organised and knowledgeable of the industry that we were able to begin working together in 2017, buying coffee from them directly for the very first time. Which is a great advantage, because there are usually up to 7 intermediaries separating a producer from the final buyer!
In our opinion, Kenya has one of the most interesting and complicated histories with coffee: Despite sharing a border with the “birthplace of coffee,” Ethiopia, Kenya was one of the latest places planted in coffee, nearly 300 years after the plant was first cultivated for sale. In fact, the varieties that were brought to Kenya had circumnavigated the globe before they found their way back to the African continent, mutating in various climates to create a profile that, once adapted to the rich soil around Mt. Kenya, resulted in the singular profiles that this country has to offer.
The first plants were brought to the country by Scottish and French missionaries, the latter contributing what would be known as French Mission Bourbon, transplanted from the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) to Tanzania and Kenya in an attempt to finance their efforts on the ground. The Scottish, meanwhile, brought strains from Mocha, the different varieties contributing to the dynamic quality of the coffees in the country even to this day.
Established as a British colony specifically for its moneymaking potential, Kenya became a coffee powerhouse as a way for the empire to control both the tea (already a Kenyan staple crop) and coffee markets worldwide. By the 1920s, as Europe demanded more and more coffee, the cash crop became a major Kenyan export, and in the 1930s the auction system was developed, ostensibly to democratize the market for farmers. After Kenya achieved independence from Britain in the 1960s, coffee took on a greater importance to small landholders, many of whom were given coffee farms in the redistribution of private property from large colonial and government-owned plantations.
In the 2000s, approximately 85% of the coffee farms in Kenya are owned by natives to the country, though European influence is still evident in larger estates. Today, the majority of Kenyan farmers tend small plots, growing as few as 150 coffee trees: They bring cherry to centrally located mills, where their coffees are weighed, sorted, and combined to create lots large enough to process and export. There are also privately owned estates, though fewer than during colonial days: The average estate grows around 10,000 coffee trees.
Most Kenyans prefer to drink tea in their homes, and cafe culture largely exists for tourists and in the major cities.
Coffee is sold by way of two main marketing systems in Kenya: by auction at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, or through direct sales, often called “Second Window.” Since the establishment of the auction system in the 1930s, the majority of Kenyan coffee has been traded that way. It’s evolved from traditional “open-outcry” bidding on the market floor to a largely silent system, with an electric trigger for each trader to hit during bidding. Through this system, prices of highly sought-after coffees can soar, as agents work to outbid each other on the coffees that are available each week.
The auction system works like this: Each estate or co-operative society works with a marketing agent, whose responsibility it is to bring the coffees to auction to sell to the highest bidder. The marketing agent will charge somewhere between 1.5–3% of the price of the coffee, and there is also a government tax imposed on the sale of coffee. Marketing agents tender samples of the milled coffees to interested bidders, and auctions take place on Tuesdays throughout the year in Nairobi; the coffees that are due to be auctioned any given week are printed in a catalogue available through the Exchange. Many exporters will bid on lots at auction and sell them privately to importers and roasters.
The introduction of the “Second Window” created an avenue in which a farmer and buyer (such as a roaster or importer) can negotiate a price somewhat separate to the bidding at auction, typically by discussing and agreeing upon the deal before or during the harvest. Some exporters will also cup and directly purchase coffees from their associated marketing agents or mills, negotiating a price based on the previous week’s auction prices for specific grades (AA, AB, PB, and so on).
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Kenyan coffee is “acidity,” but what we are looking for is not simply mouth-puckering brightness or one-note citric acid. Generally, we seek out complex, refined cups that show black currant, grapefruit or kaffir lime, mouthwatering notes of tomato or tamarind, and sparkling tropical fruit like pineapple. The famous SL varieties—SL-28 and SL-34—tend to be juicy and dynamic, while French Mission is typically a more creamy and citric cup.
In addition to variety differences, regional variations exist as with most large coffee-growing countries. Nyeri’s coffees tend to have more fructose sugar, juicy mouthfeel, and strong tart acids. Embu’s profile is more complex, with generally the darker forest fruit, more browned sugars, and overall a bit more balance. Kirinyaga shows the more floral and delicate cups, generally a more refined quality and complexity.
A note about Kenyan “classic” varieties: The “SL” in SL-28 and SL-34 stands for Scot Laboratories, which was hired in the 1930s to undertake a series of selections and tests on Kenyan coffee varieties in order to determine which had the greatest potential for success, both in terms of quality and cultivation. Scientists identified more than 40 trees of different types, giving them a number with “SL” for classification—these varieties are considered selections, not, strictly speaking “hybrids,” though many of them were the genetic offspring of cross-pollinated types and spliced cultivars.
A more modern variety and a direct result of hybridization is Ruiru 11, which is a combination of Timor Hybrid variety (an interspecific hybrid of Arabica and Robusta) and Rume Sudan, a cultivar that is resistant to coffee-berry disease, which is a common plight in the country. Ruiru 11 has been available for sale since 1986.