Flavor Profile Goodeberry, malt, chocolate
1800 producers organized around the Kiganjo Factory
1600 – 1800 masl
SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11, and Batian
Kiambu County, Kenya
Fully washed and dried in raised beds
October - January
Kiambu county sits adjacent to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, and is a coffee powerhouse. Along with an extensive community of coffee mills, exporter warehouses and quality labs, the Kenya Coffee College and Coffee Research Institute (near Ruiru Town, after which the disease-resistant hybrid is named), Kiambu is also home to many of Kenya’s largest and oldest coffee estates. Because of its proximity to Nairobi, Kiambu is urbanizing quickly. Ruiru Town is Kenya’s 6th largest urban municipality and if development continues the way it has, many expect a majority-urban county in just a few years. Yet still, in the face of so many encroaching industries, Kiambu county continues to be home to a number of well established smallholder coffee grower cooperative societies, such as Thiririka.
Kenya’s coffee is dominated by a cooperative system of production, whose members vote on representation, marketing and milling contracts for their coffee, as well as profit allocation. The Kiganjo processing station, or “factory” as they’re known in Kenya, alone has 1800 contributing farmer members, and is one of 3 large factories that combined make up the Thiririka Farmer Cooperative Society (FCS). Farmers belonging to Kiganjo average slightly less than 1 60kg bag of exportable green coffee each in production. High FOB prices for great Kenyas, while the norm, are not a panacea, and in Kenya in particular the number of individual margins sliced off an export price before payment reaches the actual farms is many, leaving only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself, and most often this arrives many months after harvest. However, Kenya coffees are sold competitively by quality, which means well-endowed counties like Kiambu achieve very high average prices year after year, and many smallholders here with a few hundred trees at the most, along with additional employment or land uses in the highlands, are considered to be middle class.
At Ngurueri, cherry is hand-sorted for ripeness and floated for density before accepted and depulped each day. Fermentation occurs overnight, after which the coffee is washed in long cement grading channels, where it is agitated with fresh water and allowed to separate by density, producing 4 final grades of clean parchment. The coffee is then dried over a period of 9-15 days on raised beds, which are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control for optimal drying.
Kenya is of course known for some of the most meticulous at-scale processing that can be found anywhere in the world. Bright white parchment, nearly perfectly sorted by density and bulk conditioned at high elevations is the norm, and a matter of pride, even for generations of Kenyan processing managers who prefer drinking Kenya’s tea (abundantly farmed in nearby Muranga county) to its coffee. Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed factories to wash, and wash, and soak, and wash their coffees again entirely with fresh, cold river water. Conservation is creeping into the discussion in certain places--understandably in the drier areas where water, due to climate change, cannot be as taken for granted—but for the most part Kenya continues to thoroughly wash and soak its coffees according to tradition. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is a longstanding tradition and positions Kenya coffees well for roasters, by tightly controlling the physical preparation and creating a diversity of profiles from a single processing batch.
“12NG0001” in the title refers to this coffee’s “outturn” number. Outturn numbers are unique microlot codes that are given to each and every batch of parchment delivered to dry mills from individual factories or estates anywhere in Kenya, and are the units on which Kenya’s entire microlot export system is built. Outturns in Kenya are tracked with a shorthand code that places the specific batch of parchment coffee in time, place, and sequentially with other coffees. Outturns are stylized as an 8 or 9-character code, including a 2-digit “coffee week” number, a 2-letter mill code, and a 3 or 4-digit intake number for the coffee’s delivery. This particular code accompanies the lot throughout the entire journey from factory to export to ensure full traceability.