Farm: Eaagads Estate
Varietal: SL28, SL34 and some Ruiru 11
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,400 to 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: Eaagads Ltd
Town / City: Thika
Region: Kiambu County
Eaagads Estate AA - Kenya
Eaagads Estate is a coffee farm owned by Eaagads Company Limited (a company that is listed in the Nairobi stock Exchange). The farm lies in Kiambu County’s Thika Division – an area well-known as home to some of the earliest coffee farms in the country.
The Estate was originally established by Catholic Missionaries and was held by colonial settlers well into the 20th century. Although the limited company was founded very early (in the 1940s), the farm has gone through organisational changes. In the 1950s, it was split into three separate farms, all bordered by the Chanya river to their north, with different titles being commuted to different shareholders. Due to this, today the coffee plantations on the Estate bears the strange feature of being split into two parts, as the middle farm (at some point owned by the Kenyatta family – or that of the first Kenyan president!) was converted out of coffee. The ‘upper’ (Karomono) and ‘lower’ (Dichanu) farms have been re-united, but to this day a swath of non-coffee land (Karangayita) lies between them.
Today a 61.7% share in the farm is owned by Kofinaf – one of the largest coffee growers in the country who also have managed the farm for many years. The link between the two companies is strong and extends even to staffing. Simon Oug’ayo has managed the farm for the past 8 years and has worked for Kofinaf for 28!
In 2010, Eaagads Ltd. sold some of its land to Tatu City, a property development project by Moscow-based Renaissance Partners. The Tatu City project is significant and will be sure to transform the landscape of Nairobi and Kiambu in the near future. However, Eaagads remains committed to producing the highest quality of coffee and will not be involved in any real estate development – at least for now.
The farm’s future goals are increasing yields and quality. Security of supply has become a global concern and in addition to the already existing certifications by Utz, Green Forest Alliance and 4C, management is continuously looking at better and more efficient ways to address the high cost of production while at the same time maintaining the quality and increasing output yields per acreage.
With regard to labour issues, Eaagads is committed to worker welfare, making sure that all collective bargaining agreements are honoured and looking at ways to improve workers’ well-being. They provide housing for all of their 47 permanent employees. To them, their “responsibility does not just end at the pay cheque but [also extend to] other social economic responsibilities that are to the benefit of the workers as well as the neighbouring communities.”
Needless to say, all agricultural activities executed on the farms – from pruning to fertilisation – are committed with an impressive stringency and attention to detail. As they are a larger farm, their change of cycle method works on the rotation of two stumps rather than three, but otherwise, Coffee Research Institute best practices are used throughout. The same goes for processing.
During the harvest, a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that quality is maintained. The farm hires between 400 and 600 people at the peak of the harvest, all of whom are well–trained in quality harvesting methods. Only the ripest cherries are picked at each pass. These are delivered on the same day to the ‘factory’ (as Kenyan washing stations/wet mills are called), sorted to remove any damaged or underripe cherries, and pulped. The pulped coffee is then fermented for around 12 hours before being fully washed to remove all the remaining mucilage.
After coffee is washed it is left to rest under circulating, clean water in the factory’s soaking tanks for around 24 hours. Once soaked and clean, the parchment is first delivered to pre-drying tables (with slightly larger screen holes) for around two hours. Here it will be sorted, again, as it loses excess surface moisture, before it is delivered to the main drying beds.
Usually drying times are around 10 to 12 days until the coffee reaches the optimal humidity of 10 to 11%. Coffee is turned and sorted every two hours or so and is covered during the hottest part of the day to prevent splitting and to promote even drying.