Situated at 1,750 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 the Murang’a County, the main occurring from October- December, and a fly crop harvested between April and July.
The coffee trees are carefully monitored and picking ensues only when the cherry is at the ideal level of ripeness. Picking occurs in the morning and buckets of bright red coffee cherries are carried to the mill. As the sun traverses across the sky into the afternoon, the cherries are piled high as underripe cherries and foreign objects are removed from the gleaming pile. The cherries are then poured into a hopper located just above the pulping station.
From here, clean local river water is drawn upwards and directed into the hopper to cover the coffee. This force pushes the cherries down a chute into the pulping house. Here, the outer pulp is removed, and the coffee is moved to a fermentation tank to breakdown the exterior mucilage for 12-24 hours. Once the fermentation is complete, the coffee is washed and sorted by density until being sent to one final fermentation tank to soak for an additional 24 hours. This step increases the proteins and amino acids in the coffee to help create a more flavourful cup profile.
Finally, the coffee is evenly dispersed onto raised tables to dry in the open sun for 2-3 weeks. Once completely dried, the coffee is moved to the dry mill to be prepared for export.
After being hulled, the coffee rests and is soon filled into 60kg hermetically lined Jute export bags.
Despite its proximity to the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia, coffee growing was introduced in Kenya relatively late – by Scottish missionaries, initially, and then commercially around 1900. Despite the late start, today, it is a country renowned for having some of the best coffees in the world. Nonetheless, Kenya’s coffee sector faces challenges for the future, and low global prices combined with climate change and population growth have diminished the country’s output over the last decade.