Our third and final Kenyan coffee release of 2019 comes from a very established wet mill, or factory as they’re commonly called in Kenya, called Muchagara. This AB lot is predominantly comprised of SL28 and SL34 varieties, as well as a small percentage of Ruiru 11. Grown by just shy of 1,700 smallholders, they deliver their coffee cherries to the Muchagara factory.
The agricultural conditions for growing coffee are particularly good, being located between 1,700 and 1,800m on the volcanic, southern slopes of Mount Kenya in Kirinyaga County. Coffee cherries take a long time to slowly mature and ripen and this particular selection comes from the 18th week of the harvest, when cherries are at their peak. This contributes to more sweetness and complexity in the cup.
Established in 1959 as the first factory in Kirinyaga County, the Baragwi Farmers’ Co-operative Society not only oversee the operations at Muchagara. They also manage 11 other facilities, with almost 17,000 members growing and delivering coffee to the 12 locations. At Mucharaga, they have a relatively new manager: David Shege. His goal is to renovate and improve the factory’s infrastructure to increase the quality of their coffee. They’re typically producing up to 200 tonnes of coffee per year, which puts a strain on everything from their depulping equipment, to their fermentation tanks and drying beds.
Most of the smallholder farmers delivering coffee cherries have between 200 and 500 coffee trees, provided under the F.C.S with Rainforest Alliance and 4C certificates. The collected fruit is then sorted on tarps before processing. This allows the factory to refine the quality of the coffee by removing under and over ripe cherries and it’s then pooled together at the mill. After depulping, the coffee is fermented in tiled tanks for between 36 and 48 hours before being fully washed and soaked in clean water from the river. Once the parchment is squeaky clean and homogenised, it’s dried on raised beds in the sun for between 10 and 15 days.
As well as investing in producing high grade, specialty coffee, the 17,000 strong membership of the Baragwi F.C.S have strong ethics that shape their methods of production. To select but a few of their 10 admirable guiding principles, they’re committed to conserving the natural ecosystem, as well as aiding in the ecological restoration of critical areas, and providing a refuge for native wildlife on their farms. They also focus on conservation of soil and water resources at the farm and factory level, using organic matter to enrich the soil as well as preventing erosion and minimising the use of chemical products through informed intercropping.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed both Gondo AA and Githembe AB this season, but feel that waiting a little longer to roast this lot from Muchagara AB has been the right decision, saving our best for last.
Image kindly provided by Jake Green, taken from his upcoming documentary photography book, Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya.
Kirinyaga County, Kenya
A super bright, fruit driven cup, loaded with flavours of passionfruit, physalis & redcurrant. Aromas of lime blossom & guava complement a honeyed sweetness.