Kenya is a convoluted, infuriating, and incredibly enticing place to source coffee. The friction between these factors is what has kept Kenya off our menu since 2018, but the distinct, inimitable quality that these coffees offer is why we’re so excited to bring one back. We found Gichathaini through our importing partners at Red Fox, and were struck by its potent tropical fruits, bracing acidity, and juicy texture. Though this coffee does not as intuitively reflect the impact initiatives that inform so much of our sourcing, we still believe our menu and program are better for featuring a coffee like this, one setting such a high sensory bar, and reminding us that there is no singular concept of the coffee supply chain.
Though many of our coffees from all over the world come from cooperatives, most still retain a relatively visible trajectory from farmer to roaster. In Kenya, however, a centralized auction system obscures the compensation pathway, with the vast majority of producers (anyone with fewer than five hectares of their own) required to deliver their cherry to a washing station, which then handles the bulk of processing before moving the coffee to a dry mill, who must then work with a “marketing agent” to finally sell the coffee to an exporter. Though beyond the scope of this write-up to unpack the myriad points of financial opacity within this pipeline, the key point is that it’s very difficult to meaningfully gauge what’s going on with any individual purchase, even as the final price point creeps up and up and up, and it is even more difficult (in most cases, effectively impossible) to sustain purchases with the same producers year over year.
In the years ahead, some of this may change. Strategies toward direct, recurring relationships with vertically integrated farming/processing entities are gaining traction in Kenya. And while the best coffees from Kenya remain some of the most distinguished in the world, years of efficiency-oriented practices combined with a lack of quality incentives have lowered the quality of the average “excellent” coffee from Kenya, thus encouraging intense reconsideration of how this country can stay in the rarefied air that’s given it such a lofty reputation. Altogether, this makes for a supremely interesting — albeit very uncertain — time to consider Kenyan coffees for a forward-looking roasting company like Dispatch.
This year, we are simply thrilled to have such an explosive, bright, juicy coffee on our menu. In the cup, we taste mango, matcha, and kiwi.