Batian: The future of Kenyan Coffee

Batian is the youngest variety of Kenyan coffee and it was introduced about 10 years ago. It’s named after the tallest peak of Mt. Kenya. It was developed specifically for disease resistance, high yields and great taste.

In about 30 years, the coffee we currently drink won’t be available. As the earth gets warmer due to climate change, the varieties of coffee that we enjoy today won’t survive in higher temperatures. Scientists are working hard to develop new  varieties that can thrive in a hotter climate. The problem is that the varieties that can survive a harsher climate, don’t always taste great. For example, the Robusta variety is easier to cultivate and disease-resistant, but it has a harsher taste.

The Batian variety is a unicorn of sorts because it manages to have the rare trifecta of high yield, disease resistance and great taste. It’s developed from the SL-34 and SL-28 Kenyan varieties that are the most celebrated coffee flavors in the world. This particular Batian performed pretty well on the cupping table and in some cases outdid the pure SLs, which is pretty incredible.

Apart from the taste, farmers love Batian because it produces a large size bean in addition to a higher yield, a feature that paves way for Kenyan coffee to be profitable for farmers. It’s also easier to care for because it’s disease resistant and doesn’t require pesticides, allowing farmers to safely practice organic farming without fear of a disease outbreak.

Disease outbreaks have defined coffee history. It’s the reason Kenyan natives were not allowed to cultivate coffee because colonial settlers assumed that the natives would not take good care of their crops and they would spread diseases. The coffee factory that’s next to my grandfather’s farm, Moromba,  was one of the earliest factories in Kenya built to serve the native population. The logic was that it was far enough away from colonial settler plantations to have the risk of a disease spread. 

The last major disease outbreak in Kenya was in 1968 and it wiped out over 50% of the crop. Ever since, researchers have been determined to create a variety to ensure we continue to enjoy delicious coffee in the future. Prior to Batian, researchers developed another variety called Ruiru 11 in 1985, which is high yielding and disease resistant, but falls short on taste. Batian is the culmination of efforts to secure the future of Kenyan coffee and it lives up to its name that represents the tallest peak of the tallest mountain in Kenya.

Enjoy Batian, not just for its great taste, but also as a nod to the future of Kenyan coffee.

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