Farm: Muthunzuuni Factory; Muthunzuuni Farmers’ Co-Operative Society Ltd
Varietal: SL28 & SL34
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,400 to 1,800 meters above sea level
Owner: 1,020 members total FCS
Town / City: Machakos
Region: Machakos district, Eastern province
Muthunzuuni PB - Kenya
This coffee was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Muthunzuuni Farmers’
Cooperative Society (FCS) delivering to the Muthunzuuni Coffee Factory, as wet mills are known in Kenya. These
farmers all live in the hills around 90 km to the southeast of Nairobi. The region is less well-known for its coffee than
nearby Kiambu and Embu, but its high elevation and rolling hills make the land very amenable to the production of
high-quality beans. The harvest here is earlier than some other regions in Kenya, making it perfect for those who just
can’t wait for their Kenyan’s to arrive.
Established in 1979, Muthunzuuni Factory is the FCS’s only factory. Muthunzuuni takes its name from the local shrub,
muthunzuu; a climber plant that is found on many trees in the local area and used to feed livestock. Of its 1020
members, 690 are men and 330 are women, with an age of 50. Temperatures in the region range from 12 to 25
degrees Celsius year-round, with a bimodal rainfall about 1,000-1,100mm per year. The main season for harvest
begins in June and continues through August, with the fly crop beginning in October and finishing in December. The
average smallholder farm size is less than 1 hectare, with half an acre planted in coffee for an average of 250 trees
per farmer. The majority of farmers keep one or two pigs or cows and some poultry to support their income and
provide sustenance. In addition to coffee, many grow maize, peanuts and beans; amongst other cash crops. As well as
providing a second source of income, produce such as maize provides useful by-products like mulch for the coffee trees;
locking in moisture on the high sloped contour farms. Similarly, the primary fertiliser for many farms in the region is
manure from livestock, mixed with small amounts of NPK (known as Yara Java).
Muthunzuuni FCS is part of the larger umbrella organisation, the Machakos Co-operative Union, along with around 28
other FCS’s. The Union offers the societies services that include coffee milling and marketing, education and training
and the provision of farm inputs at subsidised prices. These benefits enable producers to bring in a great, high-quality
harvest at exactly the right time. The Union also offers a wide range of services, including transport, bookkeeping and
accountancy and also access to coffee seedlings.
As well as receiving support provided by the Machakos Co-operative Union, Kofinaf, our partner’s partner in the
region, aims to improve the quality of the coffee annually. To do this, Kofinaf offers training courses to producers,
enabling them to improve their harvest and post-harvest practices.
Farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then delivered directly to the cooperative’s wet mill
on the same day they are picked. Cherries are stringently hand-sorted before pulping, with damaged and under-ripe
cherries being separated from the red, ripe lots (the process is overseen by the ‘cherry clerks’ who are specifically
tasked with overseeing and keeping records for payments).
The factory uses a disc pulper with three sets of discs to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that is
protecting the green coffee bean. After pulping, the coffee is fermented for 24 hours to break down the sugars, before
being washed through washing channels (which separate for density) using cool clean river water, which is later
recirculated before being disposed of into seepage pits.
Once clean, the coffee is spread out on raised drying tables. The coffee is then dried for approximately 14 days,
depending on climate, ambient temperature and volumes under processing. While drying, the parchment is repeatedly
moved and sorted to remove any damaged or discoloured beans and is covered during the hottest part of the day to
maintain even temperatures.
Muthunzuuni FCS mills their coffee at the Lower Eastern Coffee Mill (LECOM), which was started in 2013. With the mill,
farmers are making enormous savings on milling and transport costs they have previously been incurring when taking
the produce for processing outside the region.
The AA, AB and other grades used to classify lots in Kenya are an indication of screen size only. They are not an
indication of cup quality. The AA grade in Kenya is equivalent to screen size 17 or 18 (17/64 or 18/64 of an inch)
used at other origins. AA grades often command higher prices at auction though this grade is no indication of cup
quality and an AB lot from a better farm may cup better. This coffee has been graded ‘PB’ – or peaberry. Peaberry
coffee is a naturally occurring mutation present in Arabica coffee varieties, where only one bean is present inside of
the coffee cherry instead of two. Peaberries normally are the smallest bean size, after being graded at the dry mill.