Coffee has a rich history in Kenya, just like its brewed flavour. The crop was first planted in Bura, Taita Hills, in 1893. Later on, it was grown at Kibwezi under irrigation in 1900 and at Kikuyu near Nairobi in 1904. Since then, Kenyan coffee, particularly Arabica, has continued to delight coffee lovers worldwide. In addition to Arabica, three more types of coffee beans exist in the world. These are Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica.
But the intrigues and tales of this ancient beverage do not end there. Recently, when I talked to David Amutabi during the recent HOSEA 2014, I discovered interesting things about coffee I bet you also did not know. David is the Senior Barista at Dormans Coffee.
Did you know, for instance, that coffee can have various roast profiles? The darker the roast profile, the lower the level of acidity. On the same breadth, when the roast profile is light (or Cinnamon if you want to get technical), the level of acidity tends to be high.
If you are used to a normal coffee brew like me, and the furthest adventure you have ever journeyed on is adding milk and sugar, then the world of cappuccinos, espressos, mochas and macchiatos might seem alien to you.
David tells me that all the above are various preparations of the coffee drink, which are differentiated by the level of pressure applied in their preparation and the amount of froth.
Espresso is coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. You end up with a generally thicker mix from the coffee brewed by other methods. Espresso also tends to have a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids and has crema on top (a foam with a creamy consistency).
As a result of the pressurised brewing process, the flavours and chemicals in a typical cup of espresso are very concentrated. Espresso is the base for other drinks, such as a caffe latte, cappuccino, caffè macchiato, caffè mocha, or caffe Americano.
Caffè macchiato, sometimes called espresso macchiato, is an espresso drink with a small amount of milk added (usually foamed milk). In Italian, macchiato means ‘stained’ or ‘spotted’, so the literal translation of caffe macchiato is ‘stained coffee’, or coffee with a spot of milk.
A drink consisting of one-third espresso, two-thirds heated milk and about 1 CM of foam is called Caffè Latte. Depending on the skill of the barista, the foam can be poured in such a way as to form a picture.
This method of forming images on a latte drink is a highly technical skill. Over the years, it has evolved into a complex art form called latte art. I stand amazed as David creates beautiful images of flowers on my Caffè Latte – it is a surreal experience.
A cappuccino is a coffee drink topped with foamed milk. The name comes from the dressing habits of the Capuchin friars of Italy. It is made in a steam-producing espresso machine.
Pour the espresso into the bottom third of the cup, followed by a similar amount of hot milk. The top third of the drink consists of milk foam. Seasoned baristas can conjure up artistic drawings using milk foam. As you may have noticed, the difference between Cappuccino and Caffè Latte is the proportions of milk and espresso.
Mocha is another espresso drink consisting of espresso, steamed milk, foam, and chocolate syrup. When you introduce chocolate syrup in a mocha, you get a Caffe Mocha. Stir it with the espresso to make a caffeinated hot chocolate with foam.
That is the other intricate world of coffee. When I left the Dormans stand, I felt like a Barista in the making. David tells me a training school exists in the Milimani area of Nairobi. Just opposite the Heron Court Hotel, one can train in the art of coffee making here.
It is the only one of its kind in Kenya. If you are wondering who a barista is, David tells me this is a coffee expert who understands coffee from tree to cup. Do you have plans to become a barista? Pay the Dormans training school a visit.
Here is a fun fact. The Black Ivory Coffee Company Ltd. produces the world’s most expensive brand, Black Ivory Coffee, in northern Thailand. Elephants consume Arabica beans and then excrete them. The company collects the beans to make the coffee. Apparently, the elephants’ digestive enzymes break down the coffee’s protein to give it its unique taste.