Mankira is a newly-formed coffee farmer cooperative in the Bonga Forest of Kaffa region. This is, quite literally, where coffee originated as an understory plant with a thin trunk and wispy branches seeking the meager light filtered through the primary shade trees. I visited Mankira early in their first harvest, which involved (I'm not joking) taking off ones pants and walking across a rather fast-moving river. It was the only way to ensure the rest of the 1 hour hike to the Mankira washing station wasn't going to involve being soaked from the waist down (see the first pic below!). This is one of the more remote stations in Kaffa area, and for this year the coffee was carried out by a mule train since the road (if you can call it that) was still impassable. They expect to have a log bridge in by next harvest. The site is pristine, and much of the coffee is grown in the shade of the undisturbed Bonga forest, as it was from time immemorial. The farmer group was highly motivated by the visit, because the average price of coffee in the area has been historically low due to the remote location. With this harvest they were going to realize prices for coffee of at least double the previous year. Coffee in this area is planted between 1500 and 1650 meters on average. Not all of the beans are "pretty" - we found several broken beans as well as some insect damage in a 300 gram sample. I don't know that this plays too large a part in the rustic nature of the cup, and we've seen improvements from last year's coffee to this current lot.
Mankira has a honey cookie and flavor, with a subtle rustic side showing up along the way. It's apparent in the dry grounds with a smell of honey drizzled baklava - that sort of puff pastry, pistachio, baking spices, and honey scent, with just a touch of rosewater. The wetted grounds hold a bit more of a butter and caramel/brown sugar heft, and with dried stone fruit too. At City+ roast level a flavor of caramelized sugars comes through in the hot cup, that bittersweetness that comes with caramelizing sugar in a pan. As this coffee cools, flavors of peach preserves and stone fruit skins come out, expounding on the contrasting sweet and bittersweet flavors. We tried roasting this at three levels - City, City+, and Full City - and our lightest roast did not quite develop Mankira's full sweetness potential. A woody note comes through, especially in lightest roasts, and adds a rustic element to the cup profile. Be that as it may, the cup is still quite impressive, especially considering where it comes from. It's seen quite a journey out of the forest, and finally into our warehouse, and we're excited at the future potential of Mankira coffee.