Learning From The Source: Kevin Crouse / by Amanda Jones

With Kenya – it’s personal. Part of the mission of Black Drum Roasters, and what sets us apart, is our commitment to knowing the people we work with and work for. Our August single origin, from the foothills of Mount Kenya showcases that approach like no other. 

Last December, when Kevin Crouse, Head of Training and Innovation, returned to Kenya with Head of Creative, Toni Veziris, it was the latest chapter in a long running relationship that has spanned continents and many, many coffees. 

It all goes back thirty years, when Kevin and his wife spent two years working in what was then Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. During this time, they both learnt Swahili, the language common to much of south-east Africa. Returning home, they kept up their grasp of the language by using it to communicate privately between the two of them. Then, in 2011, Kevin returned, this time with an expanded Crouse entourage, and a renewed dedication to coffee. Using a hand grinder and a Handpresso, Kevin was making real espresso anywhere from farms, villages to mid-snorkelling in the Indian Ocean.

At the same time, Kevin was connecting at home. Through a Tanzanian customer Ibrahim Hussein, Kevin was connected to Abdullah Ndwala, an importer of Kenyan coffee. Switching between Swahili and English, the two instantly connected and have been working together ever since. 

As a direct importer Abdullah has been able to introduce the team at Black Drum Roasters to the people who grow the coffee we roast. While Kenyan coffee is highly regarded for its blackcurrant and lemon citrus notes and unique velvety body, farmers have been increasingly turning to other crops due to the limited returns on coffee. To avoid middlemen absorbing most of the cost and driving farmers out of business, we’ve been lucky to partner with Abdullah and his company Ameru to source coffee directly from the growers. 

Having visited the farm where this coffee is sourced from, located in the shadows of the second highest mountain in Africa, the high altitude and volcanic soils of the local environment contribute to the complex flavours present in the flavour profiles. Taking these qualities and brewing a coffee that captures them all is a difficult task, but Kevin, in partnership with Abdullah, has been able to produce a cup that stands up to the challenge. But in some cases, it’s more than just coffee, it’s about the relationships and the people that sustain it, and this Kevin’s pick for this month’s single origin showcases all of that.