Big Country Series: 2. KENYA
Second country in our series is the king of filter: KENYA
Every year we travel to this African country that's known for its fruity and clean coffees.
This year we bought 8 lots via the help of sourcing and exporting company Kenyacof. They make sure to sample roast thousands of samples a year but also help the co-ops and farmers individually to improve the cultivation of their coffees.
The most interesting lot is without any doubt our first purchase from a single grower, of a small estate called KIRANGA, falling under the segment of growers in Kenya we call “small estates”.
In revanche of most coffees, sold via auction, this Kiranga AB coffee was offered as a sort of direct trade. On the farms, coffee undergoes the primary processing (pulping, fermentation, washing, soaking and drying), before it is milled at Kahawa Bora Millers in Thika and prepared for export. We cupped several of these type of lots at the Kenyacof head quarters and were really stoked by this Kiranga AB, that we finally bought exclusively. The ambition for the future is to visit the farm in Nyeri and try to build a Direct Trade relationship with the farmer. From here on we can hope for extensive partnership and improve production and quality step by step.
Regions: Last 3 years our highest cupping coffee was a Muranga region coffee. This region is less known, but one way or another we adore the typical smoothness of the cup that works very well as an espresso coffee as well. This year we bought 3 lots from Muranga. 4 lots are Nyeri and the only Kirinyaga was the Kiranga coffee discribed above.
Other coffee regions in Kenya are Embu, Kiambu, Meru, Mt Elgon and Thika.
Grading/Sizing: Most known grades are AA (large), AB (medium), PB-Peaberry (small and/or round), C (low grade) and Mbuni (later more). We bought this year 2 AA, 3 AB and 3 PB's.
Processing: Except for the Mbuni all the coffees we encounter in Kenya are washed.
Discribing one particular coffee - the GIATHUGU - is showcasing how Specialty Coffee in Kenya mostly works: Giathugu Coffee Factory is part of Rugi Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS), delivering to Giathugu factory (as washing stations/wet mills are called in Kenya).
Rugi FCS was formed in the wake of a split of another cooperative. Learning from past experiences, services to their membership is one of their top priorities.
Their goal is to increase coffee production through farmer training, Good Agricultural Practice seminars, and sustainable farming practices. Smallholder members have access to advances for farm inputs along with training in crop husbandry and land management. Through the financing the cooperative receives, farmers are given monetary assistance for school and farm improvements. Factory managers are trained annually to be at the forefront of sustainable practices and quality control for their increasing production.
Accordingly, processing at the Giathugu wet mill adheres to stringent quality-driven methods. All coffee cherries are handpicked and are delivered to the mill the same day, where they undergo meticulous sorting. Factory employees oversee the process and any underripe or damaged cherries will not be accepted by the ‘Cherry Clerk’ – one of the most important harvest-period staff, who keeps meticulous records of how much coffee each producer delivers on any given day (and thus how much payment is due once the coffee has sold). Any rejected coffee will have to be taken home again, and the farmer will need to find a place to dry it (often a tarp in the yard) to be delivered only at the end of season as low quality ‘Mbuni’ – natural process coffee that earns a very low price. Thus, farmer members are incentivised to only pick and deliver the ripest cherry that they can.
The lot that Caffenation bought was sold in auction on January 31st 2018 and fetched the highest price Giathugu got all season, $431 USD/50kgs. (This is around 8 euro's a kilo). Besides of this there are costs for selecting, bagging, shipping, paper work and other. With local (Antwerp) costs for warehouse, trading, transport and taxes you end up around 13 euro per kilo for a coffee like this. We sell it towards professionals around 25 or 26€/Kg, exclusive VAT. This means 36 or 38€/Kg retail, inclusive VAT.
As a Specialty Coffee company we don't have trouble to make all prices transparent. We have nothing to hide. This way it's all in the open and up for the clients to decide if we ask correct prices or not.
Filter or Espresso: 75% of our Kenyan coffee are roasted for filter. The most remarkable taste component of our 'Kenya's' is the sparkling acidity, but this is of course the big 'stand-in-the-way' when using the coffee as espresso. That's the reason most of the espresso roasted coffee is blended with milder beans at a 25 or 33 percentage.
There are 150000 farmers, and up to 6 million people are working in the Kenyan coffee industry.