Farm: Thirikwa Farmers Cooperative Society
Varietal: SL28 SL34 and some Ruiru 11
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,700 to 1,900 metres above sea level
Owner: 1,835 smallholder farmers delivering to Gakuyuini wetmill
Town / City: Gichugu
Region: Kirinyaga East District, Central Kenya
Gakuyi-Ini AA - Kenya
This coffee was produced by smallholder farmers belonging to the Thirikwa Farmers Cooperative Society delivering to the Gakuyuini wet mill (locally known as a ‘factory’), located near the towns of Kerugoya and Kianyaga in Central Kenya.
Gakuyuini (var. Gakuyu-ini) is the Cooperative’s sole wet mill and, itself, is located at 1,600 metres above sea level. Small holder farmers delivering to the mill hail from the surrounding villages of Githiru, Gituba and Mukure, and their small farms (most of which are farmed as mixed use, with a blend of coffee trees – on average around 200-250 trees – and food crops) dot the southern slopes of Mt Kenya at 1,500 to 1,900 metres above sea level.
The coop is managed by a democratically elected board of 5 members and is headed by a Secretary Manager who oversees the day to day running of the coop. The wet mill has a membership of 1,835 farmers (1,553 of which are currently active).
In addition to the SL28 and SL34 that are almost ubiquitous around Kenya, this lot contains some Ruiru 11. Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the '70s and released in 1986. The variety is slowly becoming more widespread in the region due to their resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust and has been backcrossed with SL28 and SL34 to ensure high cup quality.
Farmers contributing to this lot, though very small scale and farming less than a hectare each, pay stringent attention to cultivation methods and regularly apply compost and farmyard manure to ensure soil fertility. Inorganic fertilisers are applied less frequently, though are often necessary throughout the year.
During the harvest, farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then delivered to the cooperative’s wet mill on the same day. Cherries are hand sorted prior to pulping, with damaged and under ripe cherries being separated out from the red, ripe lots, and are further defined into lots according to quality. After pulping the coffee is fermented for between 12 to 16 hours. After fermentation, the coffee is washed in clean, fresh river water to remove all traces of mucilage before being delivered through sorting channels to dry on raised beds.
While it is drying, parchment coffee is sorted again to remove any discoloured or damaged beans. When it achieves optimal humidity, the parchment is then transported for dry milling and grading before it is transported to the warehouse for storage. The coffee is either sold through Nairobi central auction or exported directly to overseas buyers. This particular lot was the result of a winning bid at the Kenya Coffee Auction. The Kenya coffee system is designed to give cooperatives and growers the maximum control over pricing of their coffee and may choose either direct or auction sales to ensure that each lot gets the price it deserves!
Coffee farming in this region goes back to the 1950s, but many members of the Cooperative rely on additional economic and agricultural activities for their livelihoods. In addition to producing coffee, most farmers in the area also produce macadamia, maize and dairy for sale at local markets and for their own tables.
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 any 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.