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Kenya Coffee Offering, August 2023

It’s no secret that we love coffee from Kenya. 

Years ago Kenyan coffees would consistently take top ranks in coffee competitions. We remember how special those coffees were and year after year they have continued to deliver delightful coffee experiences. For some, drinking Kenyan coffee is about bright, punchy and blackberry-like flavours; for others it is like drinking a beautiful kind of tomato juice. At any rate, acidity and complexity are abundant in Kenyan coffee. This year, after tasting our way through as many samples as we could we selected three outstanding examples to roast for you.

We have also decided to stack our menu with all three at the same time. This means that you can have two very different tasting Kenyan coffees right next to each other and really get a sense of how broad flavours can be from the same origin country. 

To give you a better picture of where the coffees we are serving you this season have come from, here is a little snapshot of each coffee's individual growing region.

  1. Gondo, Kenya 

New Kiriti FCS (Farmers Cooperative Society) comprises three wet mills called Gondo, Kayu and Kirimahiga. The Kayu mill is where the main office for this FCS is located and it was established there on the 14th of October 1998. This is in the Kangema District approximately 110km from Nairobi City and is estimated to cover almost 636000 coffee trees.  

The current active membership of the cooperative totals 2,469 members. Approximately 900 are female and 1,569 male. The coffee we purchased this year hails from the Gondo wet mill which has 727 active members. Alike many FCS in Kenya, New Kiriti is managed by elected members and a supervisory committee.

All the cherries in this FCS are hand picked and delivered for pulping at wet mills on the same day. After pulping the beans are fermented to help remove their mucilage for 16-18 hours, thereafter the beans are washed and graded. The parchment is then sun dried to a moisture content of 10.5 -11.5%. It is then hulled, graded, sorted, bagged and marketed through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange Auction or sold directly to overseas buyers. 

  1. Gichathaini, Kenya 

The Gichathaini wet mill is located in the Nyeri county of the Mathira West district in Kenya. Similar to the Gondo coffee we sourced, Gichathaini is one wet mill that forms a part of a greater cooperative called Gikanda FCS. This FCS is serviced by 3,152 members of which 33% are women. Gichathaini wet mill has 897 active members.

The bulk of the coffee cherries delivered to this FCS come from the foothills of Mt. Kenya with the washing station itself being located on the Eastern side of Mt. Kenya national park about 6 km from the town of Karatina. Water used at the station for fermenting as well as washing is gravity fed from the Ragati river and then recirculated during processing to help conserve the greater environment.

Interestingly, Kenya has two rainfall seasons, short and long. These fall between March-June and October-December. The length of the rainfall season is directly linked to the size of the crop harvest. The average rainfall in this region is 1200-1400mm per year with average daily temperatures that range from 15 C to 26 C. This national park region is particularly beautiful with deep, red volcanic soil with a topography that provides terrific water drainage after long or short rainfall.

With such a combination of rainfall, elevation, soil, drainage and the dedicated efforts of the active members of the wet mills, it is no surprise that coffee from Kenya has made a name for itself. These two washed coffees, Gondo and Gichathaini, are quintessential examples of classic Kenyan coffee. 

  1. The Mchana Estate is located in the Kiambu county of Kenya. 

Cherries are harvested at an elevation between 1800-2550 MASL with an average temperature that ranges from 13 - 25 degrees celsius. 

This estate is extremely well-developed. It has 172 permanent workers and a range of 200 to 1200 casual workers per day depending on the season. Permanent workers perform a variety of roles. They might be lorry drivers, watchmen, pump operators, mechanics, tractor drivers, and et cetera. Casual workers tend to be cherry pickers and are taken on ad hoc as the picking season peaks each year. 

The Mchana Estate has well-established protocols to ensure workers’ support. There are many health and safety measures. Workers, for example, below 18 are not permitted. Sexual harassment prevention protocols are enforced and managed. Religious expression is welcomed with management allowing for any active members to don religious attire. Tribal discrimination is also managed and minimized with all efforts taken to treat all active members equally, regardless of their individual tribal or affiliated backgrounds. 

The Mchana Estate also has support programs for outside of its actual milling station. There is a crèche with fully qualified teachers and handlers to care for young babies whilst their parents are actively working. During working days the children are provided with high energy and nutritious meals. Additionally, there is a nearby primary school called Ngewe Primary that caters for children of the permanent workers living in the estate and for casual workers that have come from outside.

Workers are encouraged to join any labor union groups or credit cooperative societies that best improve their individual livelihoods and as a part of the Mchana Estate are educated on how to best collectively navigate potential issues in the broader community like education enrolment rates for children and H.I.V/AIDS.  

Evidently, each cooperative in Kenya operates differently and the Mchana Estate is a great example of a well organized, thriving cooperative. The vast majority of coffees produced by Kenya are of a washed process (p.s. Gondo, Gichathaini) but the coffee we have sourced from them this year is a natural process coffee. According to their catalog of varieties growing in their harvested area the coffee we are serving is predominantly of an SL28 varietal. This varietal makes up the majority (74.1%) of the varietals grown here, followed by Ruiru (23.7%), K7 (1.7%) and Batian (0.05%).

This means that although you are tasting a naturally processed coffee from Kenya (which is rare) you are mostly tasting the SL28 variety, which is as classic as a Kenyan coffee can come.

Please take all of this information merely as a brief introduction to the complex and exciting world of Kenyan coffee. It has been a great joy to roast these delightful beans and we feel very fortunate to be able to share them with you on our roster. Based on how these coffees are performing, perhaps the best days of Kenyan coffee are still yet to come!

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