The history of Coffee in Kenya is as rich as its brewed flavour. The crop was first planted in Kenya at Bura in Taita Hills in 1893 and thereafter, grown at Kibwezi, under irrigation in 1900 and later at Kikuyu near Nairobi in 1904. Since then, Kenyan coffee and the Arabica type for that matter, has continued to satisfy coffee lovers the world over.
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 its 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. Espresso is generally thicker than coffee brewed by other methods and 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 flavors 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.
When a drink consists of one-third espresso, two-thirds heated milk and about 1 CM of foam, then it is called Caffè Latte. Depending on the skill of the barista, the foam can be poured in such a way to form a picture.
This method of forming images on a latte drink is a highly technical skill that has evolved into a complex form of art called latte art. I stand amazed as David creates beautiful images of flowers on my Caffè Latte – it is a surreal experience.
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.
The espresso is poured 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; this foam can be decorated with artistic drawings made with the same milk. The difference between Cappuccino and Caffè Latte as you may have noticed, is the proportions of milk and espresso.
Mocha is yet another espresso drink that consists of espresso, steamed milk, foam, and chocolate syrup. In a mocha chocolate syrup is introduced, which is stirred with the espresso to make a caffeinated hot chocolate with foam.
That is the other intricate world of coffee. By the time I was leaving the Dormans stand, I was feeling like a Barista in the making. David tells me there is a training school in the Milimani area of Nairobi, just opposite the Heron Court Hotel, where one can train in the art of coffee making.
It is the only one of its kind in Kenya. By the way, 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 of becoming a barista? Pay the Dormans training school a visit.