Roaster’s tasting notes:
Notes to follow cupping
With nearly 700,000 coffee producers, roughly 70% of which are smallholder producers, Kenya shines as a unique coffee-producing country in East Africa. Within the Kiambu County, the lands are rich with red volcanic soil, and is prime tea-producing land. It is here, near the town of Gatundu, where the Karinga Coffee Factory is situated.
The Factory works with the Gitwe Farmers’ Co-operative Society (FCS), comprised of 500 active members, who actually grow more tea than coffee. Initiated in 1983, the Factory now works with producers from the Kimaruri, Kariungu, Gachuha and Mugalwa villages.
Producers benefit from high altitudes here, allowing for ideal temperatures and rainfall for the slow maturation of coffee cherries. Smallholders in this region grow coffee on small plots of land and pick the cherries during harvest to deliver to the mill. There are two harvests in the Kiambu County, one occurring from May – June and another from November – December.
Once the cherries reach the mill, the coffee is washed with water from the Rwabura River. After the cherries are pulped, the coffee is placed in large tanks to soak in water and ferment. This allows for the breakdown of the exterior mucilage, normally lasting overnight. The coffee is then rushed through channels and cleaned one final time before being spread evenly on raised beds to dry in covered greenhouses until a targeted moisture content is reached. This can take around 7-15 days.
Producers and the Factory collectively value sustainability, and various projects have been enacted to reduce environmental impact. Wastewater used for processing is carefully placed into soak pits to seep back into the soil without polluting the local drinking source.
The Factory itself is managed by Samwel Muteti, the factory manager, who also works with 6 permanent employees, assisting with the day-to-day tasks processing coffee during the peak season.
The Gitwe FCS also provides trainings to producers and financing to those who require financial assistance before the harvest is complete. There are a number of challenges, including lack of access to enough loan facilities and high costs of agricultural inputs. But the FCS is encouraging producers to shift to coffee rather than tea, since the value of coffee is higher. Yields have gradually been increasing since 2012.