||Malawi Satemwa Estate Washed Red Catuai 2018
||#SSSSS Limited Editions 2018
||Varietal: Red Catuai
Number 7 of 12, July 2018, in the #SSSSS 2018 - Steve's Super Secret Stash Subscription. A limited availability series of roasted coffee beans.
This month it's: Malawi Satemwa Estate Washed Red Catuai 2018
Welcome to another #SSSSS and our halfway point! I hope you’ve enjoyed all the coffees so far as much as I have and are looking forward to the next six too!
The exciting thing about #SSSSS is getting to share with you some very small lots that we come across. Often they’re ones I find and love and immediately have in mind for it, but that’s not always the case. This week we have one that we nearly didn’t buy…
The coffee is from the Satemwa Estate in Malawi. Malawi is an exciting producing country which we’ve bought from for the last couple of years, but the process isn’t always simple. Finding good coffee in any country can be difficult, but especially so in countries that haven’t got a well established speciality market to work with. To help us find great coffee in Malawi, we decided to take part in the Taste of Harvest Auction. This is a competition that's run in a number of African countries to find the best lots in each country’s harvest, which are then put up for auction online.
Before the auction, we were sent samples of the lots which had made it through, that we tasted blind. After much debate, we settled on one we wanted to buy. Auction day came and bidding began on the lowest ranked lots, working up to the number one. We waited patiently until our pick, ranked 4th, came up. We began bidding… and won! So far, so straight forward – but that isn’t the coffee you have today.
When we were deciding which lot to bid on, we were really struggling to pick between two, but we didn’t think we could afford to bid on both. At the end of the auction, we realised that the other lot we had wanted, ranked 10th, hadn’t ended up selling. We had loved both lots, although the profile in the cup was very different for each one, so we decided to make them an offer. They agreed and you get to taste this very small lot of Red Catuai from the Satemwa Estate in the south of Malawi!
Satemwa was established in 1923 (when Malawi as we know it now was the British Nyasaland Protectorate) by Mclean Kay who was originally from Scotland. Previously a tobacco plantation, it was planted with Tea, with coffee first planted there in 1971. The estate passed on to Maclean’s son Robert who still owns it today. His eldest son Alexander continues the family tradition and is heavily involved in running the estate now.
It’s pretty unusual for us to see coffee and tea from the same estate, as the best altitudes for good coffee are typically a little higher than the best altitudes for tea growing, This relatively low altitude (around 1,000 meters above sea level) makes it all the more important that the farm has sought out ways of improving their cup quality. Part of this process is growing different varietals to other farms in Malawi – typical varietals we’ve had before are Catimor, Nyika and Giesha, where as this lot is Red Catuai.
As well as different varietals, they’ve experimented with different plants in between the coffee for shade and they also use natural fertilizer produced by the tea plantation. Unsurprisingly, that experimental streak you see in their coffee production appears in their tea production too, as they have revived the production of different tea styles on the estate, such as white, green and oolong.
The estate is big – 900 hectares of tea, 400 hectares of eucalyptus and 52 hectares of coffee – which means it employs between 1,850 and 2,000 people depending on the time of year. As such a big employer in the local area, they’re also very involved in community projects including the local school and clinic, promoting energy saving stoves and solar power.
In the cup this is up front dark chocolate. There’s sweet caramel edge that creeps in and a soft hint of orange zest, but that dark chocolate hangs around into the finish. Where it takes a turn for the unusual is in the aftertaste, which reminds me of Macha green tea.
Region: Shire Highlands
Farm: Satemwa Estate
Farmer: Robert Kay & family
Altitude: 1000 – 1200 m.a.s.l.
Variety: Red Catuai
Processing system: Washed
"Quick Look" Guide:
Dark chocolate, caramel, orange zest, Matcha green tea
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