Brian Beyke

Huckleberry Roasters - Gondo Kenya

Brian Beyke
Huckleberry Roasters - Gondo Kenya
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This bag was my first purchase from Huckleberry Roasters.  They caught my eye flashing around social media, and from a few coffee friends of mine.  Their branding and packaging is top notch- 10oz packages in the Scandinavian style rezip bags, big bold logo, and great texturized graphics drawing your attention.  On top of that, their shop looks incredibly sexy for those who are in and around the Denver area.  As tempted as I was with their espresso, I decided to pick up what they claimed to be their most complex coffee to date.  Let’s take a look at the Gondo Coop in Kenya.

This coffee is grown by the 3,000 member Gondo Farmers Cooperative Society, based in Murang'a County, north of Nairobi.  The cooperative grows SL-28, Kenya’s most prized coffee variety, which, combined with the cooperatives high base altitude of 1500 meters above sea level, contributes to the coffee’s bright complexity.  The cooperative also carries out traditional Kenyan washed processing with painstaking attention to detail.  While most Latin American producers wash their coffee, then dry it immediately, Gondo and other Kenyan producers soak the coffee for an additional 24 hours before drying, a step that helps the coffee build amino acids and develop savory flavors and creamy complexity.

Beyond Gondo’s general excellence, Huckleberry is excited to work with Elephant Coffee Importers, another Denver-based coffee business founded by Jackson Kanampiu.  Jackson is a native Kenya, with extensive experience working in the Kenyan exporting industry and greater East African specialty coffee community, and is focused on working with grower-owned cooperatives.  He and Elephant have been able to source some amazing cooperative-grown coffees, and it’s been wonderful for them to work with an importer this knowledgable, transparent, and close to home.

Details:

Roaster: Huckleberry Roasters

Region: Murang’a County, Kenya

Farm: Gondo Farmer’s Cooperative Society

Process: Washed

Varietal: SL-28

Elevation: 1,500m

Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 34g © to 552g (w) | 3:45 total time | 201 degrees | 1.33 TDS | 20.00% Ext.

Mmm. Moderately syrupy off the bat.  Cranberry, orange, and grapefruit initially, but balanced by a nice sweetness and trails of cinnamon spice.   The acidity enters as cranberry most specifically, and the lingering citrus hits grapefruit as it trails.

Aside from the acidity, what is most impressive in the cup are these toasted coconut notes right on the front of each sip, and the end of each sip is plush, leaving a creamy finish.  The whole experience is reminiscent  of coconut cream pie, but even further in the complexity you find flavors that recall french toast, fresh cherry tomatoes, and brown sugar glazed steak gristle.

Brown sugar, vanilla, and honey continue to grow as the cup settles, dense, sweet, savory and a bit spiced. Nicely balanced and easy to drink.  Kiwi, honeydew, currant, raisin, cranberry, and apricot grow sweeter.  Aromas of raspberry and grapefruit still fill the cup, while the cup slides effortless over the palate, silky, sweet, and ending with just the right about of spice, lingering citrus, dried fruits, and honey butter in a slowly drying finish.

This one seems better to finish before it gets too cold, as coldest moments leave a lingering flavor of latex balloon.  

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Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 3:50 total time | 201 degrees | 1.34 TDS | 19.85% Ext.

First sips are lightly tingly but juicy, syrupy, and ending a bit spiced with a really plush creamy sweet ending.

Currant, blackberry, cranberry, pomegranate, apple, caramel, pumpkin pie all come to mind, with a syrupy, sweet, and saturating finish with slightly savory elements like pepperoni stick spiciness.  That being said, the final thoughts always come back to creamy, and plush cream. Tea-like spices grow in the cup, with a brown sugar-like sweetness.  Sadly, I didn’t find the toasted coconut at all, when it was very prominent in the front of the previous make.

I lied, it just seems to have come a bit further in the cup this time.  The cup grows very creamy, and the fruits are portrayed again like a lovely slice of coconut cream pie (but not for long), heavy on the cream and a lingering yet balanced note of tangerine in the cup.  Still, there is just enough savory spice to keep this cup pretty interesting.  Cinnamon, cranberry, and raisin all seem to dance around in various spots.

The cup is rather dense and complex, syrupy and saturated as it bounces among sweet, spice, and savory like a game of Pong.

The final sips begin to introduce such sweet fruits like peach and raspberry into the mix- creamy, smooth, and sweet like icing.   

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Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:00 total time | 200 degrees | 1.36 TDS | 20.40% Ext.

Nice balance to the cup.  Sweetness underlying like a glazed donut, but really lets the citrus stand out a bit in this method on top.  Rounded brightness, lemon and grapefruit, and less tingling cranberry than previous makes with a bit of a salty finishing.  Nice round body, just a bit of syrupiness, and a sweet and savory finish.  Will let this open up.

Lingering on the palate you notice brown sugar sweetness growing, and in that, too, something that reminds me of eating coconut shrimp (the breaking and dip moreso than the shrimp), possibly with a nice cherry tomato side salad and a light balsamic vinaigrette.  Opening more you still have an elegantly weighted body, now a little more coating like honey with raw sweetness saturating the entire mouth.  

Cooling further the fruit develops into what I think is grilled peach, either that or peach with a bit of salt sprinkled on.  It really bounces you around that sweet and savory line- creamy and plush, or saucy, reduced, and dense.  It continues like that into the end of the cup, always dancing on sweet, salty, citrusy, savory and fruity with berries and stone fruit, even adding lighter floral notes in the finish and a lower, lingering grapefruit note.

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Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 200 degrees | 1.37 TDS | 20.45% Ext. (Immersion mode)

Oh my. First sips of this coffee are so silky, so creamy sweet.  This is so delicious.  Quickly you can tell it is a complex and juicy cup- lemongrass, toasted coconut shavings, red raspberry, cantaloupe, strawberry, brown sugar, and toast coat the palate initially, then more tingly notes of cranberry and lime snowcone arrive with savory elements of cherry tomato, pasta sauce, and grilled grapefruit finish the cup.   AND THESE ARE JUST THE FIRST SIPS.

Continuing to drink, the cup remains clean, juicy and splashy on the intake and syrupy as it swishes around the mouth.  It fills with notes of cream, cranberry, and a not-so-sharp but bright and sparkling floral and tangerine spray that drifts through to the finish.  On it’s way it rides on a lightly tea-spiced, slightly sizzling syrupy stream into the end.  

Sparkling sweet black raspberry, cranberry, bergamot and other tea-spices silkily drift, slightly candy-like in sweetness but still kept in check by a slightly savory finish.

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Brew Method:

Clever | 24g © to 340g (w) | 2:40 then drop | 203 degrees | 1.41 TDS | 21.15% Ext. (Immersion mode)

Explosive off the front like the usual cups. Instead of an attacking acidity it feels more effervescent on the front with blood orange and nectarine softly in the cup, with a deeply creamy and lightly fruit juicy lingering.

Light tingly juiciness like cranberry meets a more plump cherry and peach sweetness, still carrying lightly savory notes of spice that feels more like pie crust than anything.  The acidity rides in like a wave, more candied lime, pineapple, and grapefruit.

Caramelized brown sugar, black raspberry, and toasted coconut fill the final sips, almost like honey on the tongue but particular nuances take my taste buds towards the coconut flavor, with comfortably bright grapefruit lingering on.

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Rare do I come across a coffee as dynamic and explosive as this.  While it wasn’t my favorite coffee in terms of overall flavor, it really stretches your palate, and really achieves an elevated level of experience in terms of execution in the cup.  The end of the cup, for me, is much more enjoyable than the more savory intro.  Looking back over all of my notes from various cups, it’s odd that I say it wasn’t a favorite of mine, as it seemed to really be one of the more complex offerings I’ve visited.

 (That second sentence being the take away from this cup, that it creates an elevated experience unlike any coffee I’ve had before)

That being said it was classic Kenya yet unique, and maybe it was just too much of a coffee for me to fully appreciate.  Please don’t read that as not liking the coffee, I did, I just feel like someone with a more refined palate or brewing methodology would have a higher appreciation.  I’d like to try other Huckleberry Coffees at some point, so I’ll have to keep them on my radar.

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.