Tasting Notes: Banana, Caramel, Satsuma
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 Nyeri County along the slopes of Mt. Kenya is the Karatina Factory, or wet mill. 560 smallholders in this region contribute coffee cherries to this mill and belong to the Barichu Cooperative Society.
Situated at 1,650 meters above sea level, this region is defined by its bright red soils, full of rich nutrients for coffee trees. The high altitude allows 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 Nyeri 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 Ragati River. After the cherries are pulped, the coffee is placed in large tanks to soak in water and fermented for 24 to 36 hours. This allows for the breakdown of the exterior mucilage.The coffee is then rushed through channels and cleaned one final time before soaking once more overnight. The following morning, the coffee is then spread evenly on raised tables to dry in the open sun until a targeted moisture content is reached. This can take around 12 to 20 days.
Producers and the Factory collectively value sustainability, and various projects have been enacted to reduce environmental impact. Waste water used for processing is carefully placed into soak pits to seep back into the soil without polluting the local drinking source.
Producers will also intercrop maize and banana with the coffee to diversify income whilst also promoting soil health. Macadamia trees and the local Grevillea are planted to provide the coffee with necessary shade.
Pre-financing is available to producers thanks to the work of Coffee Management Services (CMS). This provides producers with an emergency fund for agricultural inputs and school fees. CMS has thus helped create long-term goals to maximize coffee production in this region by providing producers with the necessary training and access to resources. This then generates a more transparent and supportive relationship – promoting a sustainable future for the coffee industry in Kenya.