– Don’t kill the flavour –
Kenya’s Arabica beans are at their best when medium roasted, for around 15 minutes at 250 degrees Centigrade (482 Fahrenheit), then quickly sealed in aluminium packages to protect them from what quality controller Tim Obiayo calls “the enemies of coffee”: heat, light, moisture and oxygen.
“The most dangerous is oxygen, it assassinates flavour,” he said.
Dormans produces around a dozen coffee blends and has seen strong domestic growth.
“For many years you would question the viability of setting up a coffee shop as drinkers were tourists and foreigners, and very few Kenyans,” said Rana.
But that has changed. “Coffee is being taken seriously, as a business and by consumers,” she said.
Dormans is the biggest but not the only roaster in town.
Smaller operations such as Ransley Coffee Company, run out of a ramshackle compound on the city’s outskirts, and Kahawa Corner – kahawa is Swahili for coffee – with its small roasting and grinding shop next to a neighbourhood grocery store, have also found space in an expanding market.
Ransley supplies independent outlets Tin Roof Café, in the leafy Karen suburb, and Pointzero Coffee in downtown Nairobi.
The proprietors of both say buying from a small supplier enables them to choose the beans they want, roasted and ground how they want.
Self-described coffee enthusiast Andrea Moraa opened Pointzero in the courtyard next to the Nairobi Gallery in late 2015 hoping to create a calming oasis among the city’s hurly-burly.
She seeks out single-origin Arabica because, “coffee is like wine: it brings to the cup the taste of the place it was grown.”