Karatu Coffee Factory is located near Gatundu town in Kenya’s Thika District, Central Province. It was established in 1965, and membership is currently held in the nearby villages of Karatu, Gitwe, Kibiru and Kigaa Villages. Karatu is a “factory”, in Kenyan terms, basically a cooperative wet mill that buys and sells the coffee of members. Factories generally supply more than just access to the coffee market, and Karatu offers additional programs including access to capital for farm reinvestment, and provides members with agronomical inputs. The Karatu site sits at around 1890 meters above sea level, and is strategically situated next to the Rwabura river where it is able to pump clean water for processing coffee. They’ve dug waste water pits where the water used for processing is directed and soaks into the soil instead of running off back into the river.
Karatu’s dry fragrance is so potent with fruit and spice, and my first impression after smelling the dry grounds was something like red tropical punch (think Hawaiian Punch!), showing notes of cherry, pineapple, and orange as well. After pouring hot water, a scent of sweetened grapefruit juice is extracted in the steam, along with notes of clove spiced orange drink, fresh cranberry, and citrus zest. The cup at City roast level has a complex and tart citrus flavor profile, with the sweetness of ripe blood orange, some tangy aspects like a kumquat, and a zesty peel note that adds some grip to the flavors. The aromatics are also of note, with faint floral characteristics like Meyer lemon and rose tea, along with some sweet baking spice in that offers a nice interplay with the rest in the aftertaste. As is typically the case, the coffee cools to reveal another side to the fruited flavors, less tart and tangy, like mulled apple juice, and a brisk note of raspberry iced tea. I tend to enjoy some of the darker fruit flavors that Kenyas often produce at deeper roast levels, but my Full City roast of Karatu left me longing for the bright citrus and aromatic cup of my City roast. Ultimately, I don’t recommend venturing far beyond City+, and will personally be sticking to a light City roast (for me that falls somewhere between 12 to 15 F beyond the start of 1st Crack).