Brian Beyke

Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Kabingara AA Kenya

Brian Beyke
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Kabingara AA Kenya

I’m starting to believe Wisconsin is home to some of the greatest coffee roasters in the US.  It has been a great, great ride with these last several Kickapoo Coffee offerings.  I’ve loved getting a closer look at the company I was so fond of earlier in the year from their Congolese offerings, and quickly learned that saturating the palate with flavor wasn’t a fluke only found in those early offerings.  Kickapoo has quickly become one of my favorite roasters I’ve been able to experience, as I know any offering I select is not only going to be linked to great sustainability, but I know the profile I find will always be worth the price of admission.  They say their fanaticism pays off in some of the best coffees available on the market today, and I’d have to agree with that.  As you read this, five new offerings exist on their site from the ones we visited as well as four of the ones we’ve seen already, including this Kabingara AA Kenya we’ll be diving into today.  Check out the site, and keep up to date with these guys as they do great things in specialty coffee.  Thanks Kickapoo for sending out these 5 offerings for me to sit down with.

This coffee comes to Kickapoo from the lush rolling hills of the Kirinyaga region near the Mount Kenya native forest of Central Kenya. About 700 small holder farmers bring their coffee cherries to the Kabingara washing station for processing. The co-op was established in 1988 on a seven-acre plot of land near the small town of Kerugoya. Their relatively small production volume allows for an increased focused on quality compared to many other factory-style stations in the area.

This lot is particularly interesting because it is entirely comprised of the SL-34 varietal. Oftentimes in Kenya we see lots that are a mix of SL-28 and SL-34, weighted more towards SL-28, but now we see how delicious SL-34 can be when it stands alone. A pretty rare treat in the Kenyan coffee world.


Roaster: Kickapoo Coffee Roasters

Region: Kirinyaga, Central Kenya

Farm: Karithathi Cooperative

Process: Dry Fermentation, Washed, Overnight Soak, Raised Bed Drying

Varietal: SL-34

Elevation: 1,700 - 1,800m

Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:10 total time | 200 degrees | 1.43 TDS | 21.50% Ext.

Dry aroma of lemon, Frosted Flakes, and candy.

The brewing aroma gives nods to passion fruit, florals, cherry, chocolate covered banana, wood, and herbal notes that linger in the air.

The nose is very aromatic, sweet, creamy.

The initial sips are a bit intense as indicated by TDS, but enjoyable.  

It is moderately viscous with bright but approachable citrus on the front and sweetness emanating from the cup most quickly arriving at toasted marshmallow followed by passion fruit, and ending on a creamy apricot and cherry coulis spread across the palate to saturate with flavor, but also slightly drying the mouthfeel in a lingering finish.

As it sits in the mouth, and continuing sip, that sugary sweetness still seems to coat those sips, sips that now reveal blackberry, peach, tomato, green apple, pomegranate, lime, floral, and honey, with the long finish bringing in elements of spice, dark chocolate, and cream.

The cooler it grows the more soft and settled it becomes, grapefruit still keeping the cup bright, but it is very comfortable, non-attacking on the palate, moving into a lavender soda sweetness on the front, a buttery and shortbread-like middle, and finishing with really pleasing chocolate notes.  All the while, candy-sweet floral and fruit notes dance all around those flavors and grapefruit lingering long after your sips are done.  

The final sips are just a more cohesive saturation of the above progression.


Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 34g © to 552g (w) | 3:45 total time | 201 degrees | 1.35 TDS | 20.30% Ext.

One of those samples where the beans themselves smell gorgeous.  Honey and sweet.

Brewing aroma is almost candy-like, caramel, apple, and spice.

The nose is dense, sweet, spiced, and citrusy.

The first sips are really something.  Syrupy, sweet, really clean and clear cranberry, spiced plum, cherry skin, candy apple sweetness with honey coating and trailing to a more grapefruit citrusy brightness, still coated in sweet, sweet honey.

Not too far after the initial sips grows vanilla wrapped apricot and passion fruit, still swimming in that saturated and syrupy body with a tart cherry finish.  Those notes continue to grow more plump, more nectary, more voluptuous in the cup.  Prickly blackberry, and pomegranate dance on those tomato notes, still sweetened in the end with peach and apricot.

It carries similarities here to the previous make: a growing grapefruit and lavender effervescence on the front like soda, a buttery and dense body full of sweetness and floral tickles, and a lingering honey finish with notes of spice and chocolate.

The final sips still sit in a sea of saturated syrupiness (say that 5 times fast), sweet, a bit splashy, bright and floral infused.


Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 4:00 total time | 201 degrees | 1.35 TDS | 20.00% Ext.

Nice Kenya aromas - cranberry, currant, honey, vanilla.

This cup carries a very bright intro.  Tart cranberry notes mix with what seems like bright grapefruit, spice, and a nice honey thickness in the end.

It settles in quickly, carrying a passion fruit sparkling water beginning and saturating the palate with baked apple crisps, poached pears with honey and ginger, and cranberry and rhubarb torte.  It is very coating in sweetness, but tingly tart and bright with spices abound, and finishing like grape Twizzlers pull-n-peels.  

It cools further and remains dense- sweet, splashy, and a bit refreshing, adding some melon-like notes to the sparkling front that feels more like an Italian soda, still a bit tingly but more balanced.  Notes of cranberry, raspberry, cherry, and cream finishing.


This cup is classically Kenyan, yet an excellently executed one at that.  If there is anything I’ve come to learn over the last several offerings from Kickapoo Coffee it is that they have found the sweet spot on each of their coffees to give up every last drop of flavor in every single sip, and that certainly can be said for Kabingara Kenya.  It was clean, bright, sparkling and syrupy.  It packed a punch and soothed the palate.  It danced on the tongue and slowly slid away.  If you are looking for a Keny

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.