360° Sanremo #2

The 360° Sanremo column is a voyage of discovery of the world contained in a cup of coffee. That which is hidden within that simple gesture that accompanies us every day. We will talk to the people involved in the different processes related to the world’s best-selling beverage. From cultivation and processing methods to roasting and serving in the cup.

Enjoy a little extract:

From the soil to the cup. How a coffee of champions is made

Behind every cup of speciality coffee is a long journey, which becomes even more curious when it reaches the finals of the World Barista Championships. In this issue of 360° we delve into the steps of coffee production and discover who is behind the blend that allowed Martin Shabaya to take fifth place at the 2021 Barista Championship.

What is a specialty coffee

Before we begin, however, let us take a step back. What are we referring to when we talk about this special coffee? To be defined as speciality, a coffee must fulfil certain requirements of excellence in terms of bean appearance and flavour attributes. The reference point for this categorisation is the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), which defines standards and procedures for evaluating coffees. Let us look at these procedures together: the first appearance analysis is done by taking a small sample of green coffee and identifying any primary defects (black, sour, rotten beans, etc.) and secondary defects (broken or unripe beans). Afterwards, the coffee is roasted and ground, and then tasted by cupping and scored. Only coffees that score over 80/100 are defined as specialty.

Following a dream

The coffee used by Martin Shabaya at the 2021 WBCs comes from the Highlands, near Mount Kenya: a mountainous area not far from Nairobi. This is where David Ngibuini, producer of the coffee that accompanied Martin to 5th place in the world, was born and bred. After his studies, David moved to Nairobi, where he worked in various fields, including marketing. He feels, however, that this was not his path and decided to quit his job and devote himself entirely to research in the world of coffee. His training started online, where he quickly learnt a lot about coffee processing and began networking with local producers. In 2018, he started his own company. He built a washing station for farms in the area and invested in equipment, drawing on all his savings. The first harvests were not a success. The coffee produced by David had a mild acidity and hints of peach and apricot, while customers expected classic Kenyan coffee with high acidity and hints of blackcurrant and stone fruit. Nevertheless, David didn’t get discouraged, he rolled up his sleeves and continued to work on improving the quality of his coffees: from harvesting to processing. To do this, he began to study again, delving into fermentation and other processes such as honey.

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