Two Of The World's Best Known Coffee Varietals. Let's Explore
We’ve explored a few overarching ‘rules of thumb’ regarding the various environmental and geographical factors that impact the taste of coffee. In past articles we've also commented on how we can characterise coffee by continent, and we’ve broadly explained some of the main varietals found in coffee. Today, we’re going to explore another topic and introduce you to coffee's SL varieties.
Brief History Of The SL Varietals
The ‘SL’ name is derived from the Scott Laboratories research programme that was operating in Kenya in the 1920’s and 30’s. It was established by the colonial British government and its purpose was to provide guidance and training to the region’s local farmers. All this was done in association with the Department of Agriculture and, as part of this initiative, coffee was one of the crops researched in the study.
As part of this study, a portion a land was dedicated to the growing of coffee and a large number of plants from various different origins were planted and studied to determine yield, quality and resistance to drought and disease. The findings of this study influenced the technical advice provided to the region’s farmers and estate owners and, as such, paved the way for Kenya to become one of the most highly-regarded producers of coffee in the world.
1 Coffee's SL28 Varietal
The original and most sought-after SL variety that was discovered during this study was the SL28 variety. In our introduction to coffee varietals and species, you may have read about the Bourbon varietal found in Arabica coffee - the SL28 is related to that genetic group.
Characteristically speaking, and according the findings, the SL28 variety was extremely resistant to disease and drought and, although it didn’t have a substantial yield, it was widely recognised for its taste. Taste is certainly paramount when it comes to coffee, especially now that coffee has become such a hot commodity. The success of this variety meant that it no longer remained exclusive to Kenya and was soon exported and cultivated in other parts of Africa. It is this distribution that has contributed to the success of this variety and is the reason why African coffee is typically similar to the flavour characteristics associated with the SL28 variety.
Highlighting such characteristics surrounding taste, when describing the SL28, you’ll be using fruity descriptors for the most part, commonly finding blackcurrant, berries and citrusy notes used as descriptors. Whilst we all know that taste is somewhat subjective, these provide a rough indication as to the types of flavours you can expect with this varietal.
2 Coffee's SL34 Varietal
Another SL variety discovered during the Scott Laboratories research programme was the SL34. Much like the SL28 variety, this was selected and cultivated from a single plant crop and was chosen due to its tolerance to altitude and rainfall. Its extremely versatile as its not sensitive to changes in climate and conditions, although unlikke the SL28, is found to produce higher yields. In terms of taste, you’ll find many similarities between the SL28 and the SL34. Their similar taste profiles, as well as the effects of their different growing conditions make these varietals harmonise well and, as a result, are a very popular pairing.
In the broad spectrum of speciality coffee, both of the SL28 and SL34 varieties are two of the most recognised, widely sourced and preferred to taste. These two varietals are also one of the reasons why coffee from the African continent is so highly regarded amongst all coffee lovers, and you guessed it, can regularly feature within GUSTATORY's coffee subscriptions.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.