The central counties of Kenya extend from the center of Mount Kenya’s national park like 5 irregular pie slices, with their points meeting at the peak of the mountain. It is along the southern edge of the mountain’s surrounding forests where, in wet, high elevation communities with mineral-rich soil (Mt. Kenya is a stratovolcano) many believe the best coffees in Kenya, even the world, are crafted. Nyeri is the best-known of these 5 counties central counties.
Tekangu Farmer Cooperative Society (FCS) has long been one of Kenya’s most recognized for reliably top-quality coffee over its long history of operation. The FCS, like many in Kenya, is a portmanteau of the first letters of all member “factories” (Kenya’s name for washing stations): Tegu, Karagoto, and Nguguru. Tegu Factory is outside of Karatina town on the eastern edge of Nyeri County, close to the border with Kirinyaga. Tegu is one of the largest and oldest within Tekangu FCS.
Tegu has 800 farmer members actively harvesting and delivering to the processing center. The factory’s total parchment output this past harvest was 1,100 60kg bags, meaning the average member of Tegu is farming enough coffee fruit for roughly 1.4 bags of exportable green coffee. Indeed, farms across Kenya are more often measured in the number of trees (usually a few hundred at most) rather than the amount of territory.
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 tend to 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.
Cherry delivered to Tegu is hand-sorted on arrival for ripeness and consistency. Each day’s cumulative deliveries are depulped together and fermented overnight. The next day the fermented parchment is sorted by density into 4 different grades, during which it receives a thorough washing with fresh water. Drying takes place on raised beds and typically requires 8-14 days to complete.
Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed Nyeri 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 so in the drier areas where water, due to climate change, cannot be as taken for granted. For the most part however Kenya continues to thoroughly wash and soak its coffees according to tradition. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is another 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.