Last year Climpson's released an exceptional coffee from a collaborative group of neighbouring farmers in Kirinyaga, dubbed the Slopes of 8. We selected this coffee not only for its quality (sleek and tropical) but also with the intention of developing a closer working relationship with producers and securing the rare opportunity to work with the same Kenyan coffee each year.
With the majority of Kenyan coffee sold through an auction system operating each Tuesday in Nairobi, it has often proven difficult to ensure roasters can receive the same lots each year. Rather than submitting their coffee to the auction, the Slopes of 8 is a year-round project selling directly to the exporter Kenyacof and working with their expert agronomists to improve quality, yields and prices. Teaming up with Kenyacof and importing experts 32Cup, I joined in a buying trip to Kenya to visit the Slopes of 8 and cement our interest in working with this project on a rolling basis.
Arriving in Nairobi at 6am on Monday morning it was straight to the cupping lab for a day of evaluating an incredible range of samples. Working through upwards of 100 bowls blind I was thrilled to see this year's Slopes of 8 harvest easily top my score sheet. Having received feedback and advice from Kenyacof's agronomist Wycleff, the producers had managed to improve on last years quality and production output. With our allocation of this coffee selling out in record time last year this was great news, allowing us to buy double the quantity for this year.
The next day a group of coffee buyers piled into Wycleff's 4x4 for a dusty 3 hour drive north to Kirinyaga. With Mt Kenya standing proudly over the region, the red soil, sunshine and altitude make for perfect coffee growing conditions. Over the day we visited a number of the contributing farms with the Slopes of 8 Chairman Joseph Karaba. Most notable was the cleanliness of their washing stations and the immense pride they take in maintaining healthy arabica (most of this is the Kenyan varietals SL28 & SL32 with some Ruiri, Batian and K7 making up other volumes). It was also obvious that working together towards sustainable quality was guaranteeing better prices for the group. The knowledge that their choice of title as the Slopes of 8 was also being recognised around the world was inspiring, with Joseph citing interest from other Kirinyaga producers in forming similar projects. For now these 8 producers are a shining example of sustainable quality working as a means of improving the coffee supply chain. As a result they have established committed buyers for the coffee each year whilst we also benefit with a guaranteed supply and quality.
This process of ongoing improvement has resulted in a more transparent and complex cup profile with sleek red grape sweetness and refreshing melon acidity. But more important is our interest in maintaining this relationship, with the goal that this coffee appears on the Climpson & Sons menu for many years to come.
The Slopes of 8 Members