Exploring coffees that change with the seasons is a wonderful way to fix a sense of changing flavor with a point in time. As spring blushes into summer, the emergence of lush, almost enthusiastically flavorful Kenyan coffees has come upon us courtesy of some of North America's finest roasters. We've rounded up four of the very best of these—all hailing from the fruitful Nyeri region of Kenya—plus a bonus coffee from Burundi for good measure.
Roasted by Gimme! Coffee (Ithaca, NY)
It's a shocking first sip—this coffee is huge, hugely juicy, so lively and expansive in the cup you might be afraid it would dance away from you down the counter. A dark cherry-berry aroma opens up in the mouth to an effervescence almost reminiscent of cola and grape soda pop. Rose, hibiscus, red wine, lemon-wedge-in-your-tea flavors are chased by just the slightest hint of sultry, savory beef broth, making this coffee as complex as it is jaw-dropping. All of this draws to a close in a smooth mouthfeel, finishing long and big—a joy to drink, and full of surprises along the way.
Roasted by Stumptown (Brooklyn, NY)
A darker, firmer take on this fruity region, Stumptown's east coast roast of this deep-noted coffee is all dark-skinned dried fruit (think plum, prune, heavy on currant) with an orange peel acidity, like an angrier Cassis cocktail. This Gatomboya's got a big presence in the cup, with a little more intense force than the fruit-and-flower-petal styles of its brethren. Would pair gracefully with milk, or shine as your after-dinner coffee.
Roasted by Ritual Coffee Roasters (San Francisco, CA)
A natural sweetness pervades this coffee, harvested from the Barichu cooperative's steep slopes. Ritual's treatment of the bean is gentle-handed, evoking bergamot, brown sugar, and dark fruits. It's a bright but not at all alienating coffee—more like a "fresh" taste than a too-sunny acidity—moving from its deep sweet sugary notes towards a balanced lemon-tinged blackberry-boysenberry juiciness and a smooth finish.
Roasted by Barismo (Arlington, MA)
When your coffee opens up with an aroma of sour cherry pie> filling, things can't really go too far wrong. A tart acidity moves towards chocolate in this slightly limey, mild-finishing coffee. It's not as dramatic and punchy as some of the Kenyans on the cupping table, but it has a totally approachable raspberry-chocolate quality that will beckon you back, and back again.
and....one more, from Burundi:
Burundi Gatare Microlot
Roasted by 49th Parallel (Vancouver, BC)
A beautiful, subtly laced canopy of flavors make this microlot from the Gatare region of Burundi a great complement to tasting the four big mouthpunchers above. This breezy, caramelly coffee is smooth in the cup but still totally dynamic. Peach compote, a hint of muscat grape and tons of rose-lily-floral notes combine in a slightly viscous but graceful cup. It's my dream 5:00 pm coffee, something you want to linger over as you wait for the twilight to twinkle.