Farm: Fairview Estate
Varietal: SL28 & SL 34
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,750 metres above sea level
Owner: Coffee Management Services
Town / City: Kiambu
Region: Kiambu County
Overall: Caramel, Pecan, Citrus
Fairview AA - Kenya
For over 100 years, Fairview Estates fertile soils and holistic production methods have helped to produce some of the best lots that the Kenyan central highlands have to offer.
Having existed for over a century, Fairview Estate is one of Kenya’s oldest coffee farms. During the last one-hundred years, the Estate has changed hands many times, from Mrs Eveline Poy to Mr Oliver Tait (1924-1926), to Ngoru Enterprises Ltd (1926-1978). For the last four decades, Fairview Estate has been owned by former Kenyan Ambassador to the United States of America, Leonard Oliver Kibinge, and his family.
Today, Mr Kibinge enlists the help of Coffee Management Systems (CMS), one of Kenya’s premier marketing and agricultural extension services. With the help of CMS, the land continues to yield coffee that is some of Kenya’s finest quality. CMS primary provide support to the estate, helping to correctly carry out duties such as weighing selection and processing. An experienced senior agronomist from CMS also helps to provide advisory support to the farm.
The beautiful estate greatly benefits from its optimum surroundings. Situated at 1,750 metres above sea level, the high altitude allows for slower development and greater late crop yields, as trees experience optimum sunshine and generally better weather conditions. This means that when the later yields are picked, the berries average a fuller, redder and heavier crop. This is why more AA grade coffees are produced in central Kenya than anywhere else in the country; as perfect growing conditions help to create some of the world’s best beans.
As well as altitude, the soil is of the deep red volcanic type, common to the region. For water, this area of Kenya has two distinct rainy seasons: March through May and October through December. Irrigation water is used to supplement the needs of the coffee farm in-between seasons, with the Riara River, in turn, fed by streams from the central highlands, helping to provide good access to water year-round.
During the peak of the harvest season, the workforce grows to around 400 people. These day labourers are brought in by bus and extra Lorries, to help pick, sort, prune and irrigate the coffee trees. The estate believes in treating their staff fairly, citing it is human care that helps make Fairview Estate coffee so outstanding. The farm has a well-stocked dispensary for its workers and their dependents, a primary school for workers’ children and those of neighbouring communities, as well as a day-care facility for those less than 5 years old.
Coffee is harvested twice annually. During the harvest, a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that quality is maintained. All pickers are well–trained in quality harvesting methods, and 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 under ripe cherries, and pulped using the farm’s disc pulpers. From here, the pulped coffee cherry is set aside to decompose and be recycled back into the plant soil. The pulped coffee is taken to concrete pits to be fermented for around 12 hours, before being fully washed to remove all the remaining mucilage and graded for a second time.
After the coffee is washed, the beans are delivered to the factory’s soaking tanks. Here, heavier grades separated by the second grading are then further soaked for 16 hours to further improve the coffee's quality; as well as remove any residual sugar. Once soaked and cleaned, the coffee beans are graded for a third time before the parchment is delivered to drying tables.
Drying takes place on long sun-drenched tables, tightly stretched to prevent sagging, thus ensuring uniform drying. Great care is taken to sustain bean quality, through proper fermentation and slow drying of the pulped parchment. Drying is conducted in two phases: the ‘wet to black stage’ (rapid drying to remove excess skin water) and the ‘black to white’ stage (slow and well-monitored drying). During the first stage, the parchment is hand sorted to remove any defective beans.
For the second stage, drying times are around 7 to 14 days. Coffee is turned and sorted every two hours or so and is covered under Nylex during the hottest part of the day to prevent splitting and to promote even drying. After the optimal humidity of 10.5 to 11% is reached, the coffee is bagged and rested in the farm’s ample warehouse, before being delivered to the mill in Karatina, Nyeri County to be prepped ready for export.
Screen sizing in Kenya
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.