Brian Beyke

Black Oak Coffee Roasters - Kabatha AB Kenya

Brian Beyke
Black Oak Coffee Roasters - Kabatha AB Kenya

For Fans Of: Jazz, dessert.

Black Oak Coffee Roasters’ desire is to be a hub for community from within and without Mendocino County.  They want their coffee to be so good you would drive across the county for a cup. They feature regular concerts of local and touring musicians, an in-house vinyl collection being spun, and baristas whose skill and passion for making the perfect coffee drink matches their reverence for roasting the perfect batch.  They have also created a signature drinks menu to reflect their desire to present something unique for our customers.  While that might not be new to a lot of shops around, it isn’t something that I see very often in my parts, at least not in the third wave coffee roasting scene.  I can tell you one thing, if this Kabatha AB, Kenya is on the brew bar, fire up the car and get there… now.  

It’s hard to top Kenyan coffees. They represent what is possible in coffee production with dynamic fruited clarity and gorgeous structured acidity.  We could go on and on about how much we treasure the amazing beverages you can brew from this region, lets just say that they are worth the extra money that we spend for the green coffee and you spend for the roasted stuff.

This year, via our good friend and importer, we were able to pick up just a couple hundred pounds from a woman named Rahab Muriuki, who operates her farm outside of the local cooperative milling system, which makes direct trade relationships difficult to create. She grows and processes her coffees using her own fermentation tanks and drying tables. She named her farm Kabatha (pronounced Kafatha) after a small spring next to her farm with the same name. Rahab produces only a few bags yearly, meaning a large percentage of her entire crop sits in our roasting room.  


Roaster: Black Oak Coffee Roasters

Region: Kabatha Estate, Kenya

Farmer: Rahab Muriuki

Process: Fully washed, naturally fermented, sun and machine dried.

Varietal: SL Bourbon

Elevation: N/A

Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:10 total time | 200 degrees | 1.39 TDS | 20.85% Ext.

Brewing aroma of herbal, pepper, citrus and red berries.

Nose is sweet, warm, inviting, citrus.

First sips are soft, honey sweetened, with a softer syrupiness than, say, the Guatemala, with a clean, soft grapefruit citrus in the finish.  Still, it carries a lot of mixed berry sweetness.

As it cools sweet and slightly tart cranberry, raspberry, and currant makes an appearance, and under that an even sweeter strawberry ganache sweetness, still with a grapefruit soda-esque finish, and a dusty blackberry lingering with floral notes whisking around the edges to prevent it from being too dry.  The blackberry is nice, because I typically don’t find it as an enjoyable flavor to run into, but here… scrumptious.

It’s a very clean coffee, reminiscent of the Tim Wendelboe Kapsokisio or Supersonic Chelelectu I’ve had recently that have been immaculately clear offering.

One thing you’ll notice as it cools is it takes a very nice orange juiciness, as if biting into a succulent and fresh orange slice.  The honey sweetness and floral notes both get more intense in the finish and if you weren’t paying attention, you’d think it was an Ethiopian offering, save for the quietly persistent citrus acidity that is trademark of this wonderful Kenyan profiles.

However, the cooler it grows those notes switch over into more apple sweetness, lining the palate with honey, lime, floral, and lightly tingly goodness and lingering citrus and spice in the long finish.


Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 34g © to 552g (w) | 3:55 total time | 201 degrees | 1.34 TDS | 20.15% Ext. (preferred method)

While the brewing aroma is sweetened with dried fruits such as date and raisin, the nose offers those aromas as well as added candy citrus notes.

The first sips jumping in are so good.   Nearly perfect balance, dried fruit sweetness, lightly syrupy mouthfeel with candied citrus brightness and leading into a honey-sweet lingering.

As it opens it just oozes so effortless- currant, cranberry, apricot, and raisin all buttery and saturating in the most pleasing way on the palate, with controlled orange acidity landing closer to the rear of the mouth, a bit tingly but never distracting as it sweetly finishes.  More juicy notes of strawberry, blackberry, peach and raspberry also seem to arrive in a jam-like fashion, palpable and weighted on each sip.  Too, you find those floral infused honey notes clean up every drop.  All the while, lingering citrus, grape juice, and spiced plum liven each sip.

All that being said, you might think it has too much going, but you would be wrong.  Each flavor element seems perfectly executed.  While complexity does come to mind, it is almost like a parade, getting glimpses of each segment through your sips- the finale of which, is this incredibly gorgeous honey note, with trails of all the notes picked up throughout each sip.

As it cools it remains saturated, slightly lessening in intensity but growing a bit more complex and delicate, while never letting go of the growing fruit sweetness.  Like the previous method it is clean, flavorful, and not unlike an Ethiopian profile with an added acidity.  Peach, lime, raspberry, bergamot, mango, apricot, a bit of tea-like spice, floral, and lovely fruit lingering, with a brighter, nearly sparkling clean long finish.


Brew Method:

Woodneck | 30g © to 500g (w) | 4:30 total time | 202 degrees | 1.32 TDS | 20.45% Ext.

Nose of grape, honey, apple, cinnamon.

Initial sips are moderately syrupy, viscous, resonant, vibrant, a bit tart immediately with currant and cranberry, and apple skin and orange zest seeming to arrive after.  Buttery, sweet, honied.  

Soon it thins out but remains palpable and syrupy on the tongue as it slowly saturates.  Hints of spiced apples, baked pears, raspberry and orange blossom with notes of florals like lavender even forming in the end. Really balanced.  

While the acidity stays balanced in the cup, it also continues to get sharper through the cup.  Right now toward the end I’m finding juicy and syrupy currant and strawberry, brown sugar sweetness and  a bit more piercing citrus acidity more like grapefruit than orange.

It grows sweet, again with peachy and apricot notes arriving, but keeping that nicely persistent acidity and a bit of spice alongside.

Final moments are a bit tamer, still tingly, sparkling, and a bit mead-like in the finish.

(This method seemed to hit the cupping notes closest perhaps, but felt it was a little less interesting than the Kalita make.)

Currant, pungent, honey, citrusy.


Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 4:00 total time | 202 degrees | 1.35 TDS | 19.99% Ext.

Mmmmm. Really nice palpable honey and date like sweetness on the front, current, Apple Jacks, cranberry, orange zest and raisin adding to both sweetness and a bit of it’s zing in a bright, slightly tea-leaf spiced herbal elixir.  Really clean, plush, and vibrant- it’s pretty explosive out of the gate.

The honey continues to grow, while citrusy mixes of tangerine, lemon, and grapefruit notes brighten the way and the fruits begin to grow candy-coated.  Apricot, pear, strawberry, blackberry, currant, cranberry, and passionfruit ooze out, slightly splashy and seemingly with a slightly caramelized brown sugar glaze. The ending adds these spices that are reminiscent of a cinnamon chewing gum, but not as burning.     

Towards the end, the raspberry becomes the main focus. The sugars significantly clean up and you have these sweetly sugar-coated fruit notes really pop, more akin to a washed Ethiopian (Kochere or Idido) with a creamy and lingering finish, and trails of citrus notes catching back up in the long finish.  

Raspberry glazed cheesecake comes to mind at points, with the final sips leaving trails of melting semisweet chocolates.


Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 34g © to 553g (w) | 3:50 total time | 202 degrees | 1.41 TDS | 21.25% Ext.

While drinking this, I am also dialing in my new Vario. It has been a bit difficult, but I am finally getting some results that don’t seem completely off.  I was a bit leary seeing the TDS on this coffee, especially based on the previous cups I’ve been dialing in, but to my surprise it is pretty tasty.  I can tell it is a bit on the strong side, but let’s see what the cup offers.

Initial sips are juicy, leaving notes of currant, cranberry, and splashed on all sides with lemon juice.  The mouthfeel in the finish is a bit dry, my wife comments nutty, but I would just say it’s drying more similar to canned pear and raisin, with date, honey, and light sprinkles of cocoa in the finish.

It cools so pleasantly.  Insatiably clean- honey lines every sip while dried fruits and slightly tart berries dance on the palate, and finishing like a citrus white tea.  Raspberry, pomegranate, plum, cranberry, raisin, and date sit pleasantly dense, and lingering with lightly tingly sweetness and spice notes.  It has this slow oozing of saturation over the palate that makes it hard not to fall in love with this coffee.

Apricot and lemon come out more as it cools, but still stays mostly on those dried fruit notes and only quietly gets those sweeter fruits mentioned in previous makes, if you wait long enough.  If you do though, mmmmmmmm.   


In recent memory, I have had one coffee that I’ve mentioned to be, quite possibly, the greatest coffee I’ve ever had, and that would be Tim Wendelboe’s Kapsokisio, Kenya (write-up still yet to be posted).  My greatest concern with that coffee was it’s ability to consistently be dialed in to the profile that sang and sang and sang.  The Kabatha AB is the closest Keyna I’ve had to that profile outside of the Kapsokisio itself, but it gave me the same results cup after cup.  While it was easier to dial in Kapsokisio, I did notice it was a bit less articulated and clean, and doesn’t quite get the same sweetness in the end.  However, that doesn’t praise this coffee enough for what it IS.

This Keyna was one of the absolute best coffees I’ve had this year, let alone ever.  It was clean, juicy, vibrant and tickling, yet sweet, complex, sparkling and saturated in flavor.  If it isn’t gone from the site or store yet, you need to pick up a bag of this coffee immediately.  Unrelenting in the absolute best way possible.  

Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.