Brian Beyke

Topeca Coffee - Chania Natural, Kenya

Brian Beyke
Topeca Coffee - Chania Natural, Kenya
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We visited Topeca Coffee Roasters previously on the blog with a delicious El Salvador offering.  If you remember, Topeca has the fully vertically integrated Seed to Cup model, with family farms in El Salvador from which their offerings come from, but they do much more than that.  Aside from sourcing other selections from around the world, they wanted a way to highlight some stand out selections. 

The offering we are getting ready to look at is the first of the Topeca Limited Edition Series coffees.  Limited Edition coffees are coffees that go above and beyond our normal expectation of specialty coffee.  The series is reserved for coffees that exhibit the rarest, most unique and highest qualities produced in the world.  What a way to kick off the series than with an offering that you don’t see very often - a natural Kenyan.

(this excerpt was taken from the offering by Velton’s Coffee)

What’s interesting is that it is very rare to see a natural, or dry processed coffee come out of Kenya. The natural processing gives what is already a fruit-forward coffee an even “fruitier-yet” overall taste profile. As if the interesting nature of the processing wasn’t enough, the uniqueness of this particular varietal itself lends more to the story.

This unique varietal is a look back into the past. French Mission is an original Bourbon varietal that was introduced by French Missionaries in the late 1800’s. Over 76 centimeters of rain a year, combined with the deep red volcanic soil and temperatures of 22 to 28 degrees Celsius, come together to provide the perfect conditions for this coffee to express its genetic treasures.

The Harries family has been growing coffee for almost a century. The family has donated more than 50 acres of land to the Thika Municipal Council and co-founded the Wabeni Technical Institute. This institute seeks to teach underprivileged children practical skills that can help them make a living; e.g. dress making, motor mechanics, and carpentry.

Details:

Roaster: Topeca Coffee Roasters

Region: Central Province, Thika, Kenya

Farm: Chania Estate

Process: Natural

Varietal: French Mission

Elevation: 1525m

I’m going to preface this by saying I don’t know how much weight to put into the extractions of this cup.  When talking with Mitchell at Topeca, I’m fairly certain he mentioned readings tend to be wonky.  Let us continue.

The Dragon | 20g © to 310g (w) | 1:15 add outer water |  3:15 begin plunge | 4:00 end time  | 207 degrees | 1.45 TDS | 23.80% Ext.(Immersion mode)

To be quite honest, the first sips are almost offensive on the palate.  You have to take a step back and start to digest everything that is being thrown at you, because there is a ton.

On one side, you have a cup layered with rich and winey characteristics- blackberry compote, strawberry preserves, huckleberry, sour cherry, dark honey and dark chocolate.   Then, the Hyde to your Jekyll, on the other you have this green apple acidity lighting the cup on fire with dense grape jam sweetness.   To be honest, it sort of reminds me of hot pepper jelly, giving both radically savory and slightly vegetal moments and brief, brief moments of sanity.  

This can be said- it is immensely clean, lively, round, and voluptuous.  It dances on elements of earthiness, woodiness, tartness and sweetness. The cooler moments, while brandy-soaked fruits still come to mind, it begins to leave syrupy caramel notes on the tongue.

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Brew Method:

Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 3:50 total time | 202 degrees | 1.45 TDS | 21.33% Ext.

Gosh, what a crazy, crazy coffee.  It arrives with one of the brightest green apple notes I’ve ever come across- like a green apple loaded with warheads, and almost a pungent and complex following that is hard to distinguish but is winey, slightly juicy, and a bit drying on the finish. To break that down a bit more specifically, it is intensely sweet on the front, a palpable sweetness reminiscent of cotton candy, with blackberry wine, dense strawberry reduction, and a slightly drying mouthfeel that is both characteristic of that wine note but also exists more specifically like grape skin.

The body is interesting. It seems to arrive a bit juicy, thinner than you would think for a natural, but then it just slathers it on and creates this blanket of soft syrupy goodness across the palate.

It still seems to carry vegetal characteristics underneath, this time I seem to pick up fire roasted corn most prominently.  It’s such an interesting cup. If you drink this one too fast, or too quickly between sips, you’ll easily gloss over its most interesting notes and only get those most forward.  Leaving the sips to linger on the palate, at least for me mid-cup, is giving these interesting drifts of vanilla bean, cedar, and hops.  Later those notes also give up molasses, juicy ribeye steak, and caramel malt.

The notes slightly release in their intensity and create a really captivating and syrupy finish in the end of the cup, drenched in flavor, effortlessly soaking the palate and sweetly lingering.  Final sips are grape jelly, strawberry, and molasses.

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Brew Method:

Clever | 24g © to 340g (w) | 2:40 then drop | 204 degrees | 1.47 TDS | 22.06% Ext. (Immersion mode)

Initial sips are hot, hot, hot on the palate.  They are lightly syrupy, really comfortable really, with caramel sweetness and green apple brightness, and dense blackberry jam as well as other dark fruit sweetness lingering.  It is really sweet, not too much to handle sweet, but intense would definitely describe it.  As it cools more of a lightly sour grape candy sweetness comes out that is equally intriguing, saturating, and pleasing.  

The body is similar to the previous make, juicy as the fruit sweetness arrives then layered with syrupiness as it lingers on the palate.  The TDS readings don’t seem to make a difference in this cup in terms of over extraction qualities, but it is an intense cup.  In fact, the cup remains really clean, as it seems to bring out the flavors of green apple, cherry, grape, raspberry, and watermelon jolly ranchers all at once.  Cooling more the ending is plush, like a soft chocolate mousse.

Layers of strawberry jelly come out more as it cools, rich and suave as it slides around the mouth, but underlying there is always a tart, slightly souring cherry note that seems slightly distracting initially but then meshes with the profile through the sip.

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Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:30 total time | 201 degrees | 1.41 TDS | 21.05% Ext.

A lot different of a cup than the previous makes, and I assume that is because of the age.

This one is juicy with green apple, but more reserved that the previous makes.  That being said, it still tingles and dances on the tongue with each sip.  With that, there is also sweet grape sweetness and a creamy berry (strawberry and blueberry) lingering.  I would have assumed that this would carry notes of age, but it still just stays flavorful, sweet, and plump.

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The coffee was ridiculous, as was prefaced to me before I ordered it.  It is offensive on the palate, yet something about it is so intriguing that you want to keep sipping to see what you might find.  

While this is a crazy coffee, there isn’t a whole lot that, on a cupping table, would most likely set it apart from a natural Ethiopian except for its unusually bright profile that I haven’t really noticed in a lot of other naturals.  While the profile doesn’t do a ton of changing, what keeps me interested in a coffee like this is how dense and syrupy the mouthfeel is, yet how clean and flavorful the mouthfeel is.

All that being said, it was cool to try a natural Kenya.  I’m not sure I’d be terribly anxious to immediately jump on another (for the sake of it being a natural Kenya), but I’m glad I got to experience it and would drink it again.  

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.