This micro-lot is produced in Kiunyu Coffee Factory located in the Gichugu division on the southern side of Mount Kenya. Established in the 1960s, Kiunyu Coffee Factory is one of two coffee factories (mill) of the Karithathi Farmer Cooperative Society in Kianyaga town, Kirinyaga County of the Kenya highlands. Since then it has been serving farmers around villages such as Kagumoini, Kianduma, Kiambuuku, Kiambatha, Gatura and Kiamuki.
The area is extremely fertile, made up of rich red volcanic soil at an altitude of 1,500+ masl and an annual rainfall of around 1,400 mm. The majority of coffee varieties grown here is SL34, but some farmers also grow Ruiru 11.
Coffee farming in the region started in the 1950s. However coffee is not the main source of income for the farmers. Other than coffee, they also produce macadamia, maize and dairy. Additionally, many farmers prefer to grow tea because of its constant high yield throughout the year and easier to produce.
Only the red cherries are handpicked and delivered to the local coffee factory on the same day. In the factory, coffee cherries are hand-sorted before depulping. Cherries that are overripe/under-ripe and damaged are removed.
The red cherries from the sorting process are then pulped and dry fermented from 16–26 hours. After the fermentation process, cherries are washed with clean water to remove any unwanted mucilage, then graded. The next step is to soak the parchment in water for 12–48 hours. During the soaking process, water is replaced every five hours. The final process is to dry the parchment on a raised bed for 7–15 days. Coffee parchment is spread evenly and turned regularly to achieve even drying. During the drying process, employees regularly inspect the parchment to remove any damaged and discoloured beans.
Coffee in Kenya is graded by its size. There are eight grading categories, with AA, PB and PB being the most common grade. The grade AA is used to classify beans that are 17/18 screen size (larger than 7.2 mm). The AB grade is a blend of grade A beans (6.8 mm) and grade B (6.2 mm). Lastly, PB grade is used to classify peaberry beans.
Kenyan AA coffee is valued highly at auction because AA beans are grown at a higher altitude that correlates to higher quality. Some Kenya AA coffees are light-bodied yet still very bright and exhibit a floral aroma. Tones of passion fruit and wine are often present, and this is almost always balanced by an acidity that is crisp and refreshing.
Kenya has a unique way to trade coffee. In Kenya coffee is sold through two market systems, namely by auction at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) and through direct sales a.k.a second window.
The auction system started in the 1930s and has evolved from the open bid at the market to the current modern bidding in NCE. This system benefits the producers because it drives the coffee prices high especially for the most desirable coffees.
To enter the auction, each estate / cooperative works with a marketing agent that acted as the representative in the auction. They bring samples from the mill to interested bidders and attend the auction. Normally, the marketing agent is paid with a commission of 1.5–3% of coffee sales.
The second window allows coffee farmers/factories to sell directly to buyers such as importers or coffee roasters. There is more flexibility to negotiate a contract and the price of the coffee.
More about Kenya
Kenya has one of the most interesting and complicated histories of coffee. Check out our blog to find out about the history of coffee in Kenya and the producing region.