Farm: Mugaga Farmers Cooperative Society
Varietal: SL28, SL34 & some Ruiru
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: Mill: 1,800 metres above sea level
Owner: 681 farmers (587 active members) deliver to Gatina Wet mill
Town / City: Kianyaga Town
Region: Nyeri County, Central Kenya
Overall: Honey, apricot, apple, syrupy body
Gatina PB - Kenya
This peaberry coffee was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Mugaga Farmers Cooperative Society delivering to the Gatina Coffee Factory, located in Nyeri County near Kianyaga Town. The factory was built was in the early 1980's to process cherry from the neighboring farms and is one of five owned by the Mugaga Cooperative.
Gatina’s membership currently stands at 681 small holder farmers, of whom 527 are active (Mugaga itself incorporates somewhere close to 1,200!). The factory is run by a factory manager who reports to the society's secretary manager. There are 3 representatives in the Society management committee.
Gatina Mill members receive assistance and support from Coffee Management Services (CMS), who also help bring their coffee to market. With the long term goal of sustainable production and quality increases, CMS provides farmer training, input access, Good Agricultural Practice seminars, and a sustainable farming handbook updated and distributed annually. CMS ultimately seeks to establish a transparent, trust based relationship with the farmer, helping to support a sustained industry growth in Kenya by marrying premium quality to premium prices for the farmers.
Through the pre-financing they receive, farmers are given advances for school fees and farm inputs. The factory manager is re-trained every year by CMS in best practices and quality improvement measures, and field days are regularly attended by the minister of agriculture and agrochemical companies that deliver inputs to the farmers. Demonstration plots are planted at the factory to reinforce the best practices taught throughout the year.
In addition to the wide-spread SL28 and SL34, this lot contains a small amount of Ruiru 11. Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the '70s and released in 1986. Although composing very little of cooperative member’s total production, Ruiru is slowly becoming more widespread in the region due to its resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust. It has also been backcrossed with SL28 and SL34 to ensure high cup quality.
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 tea, maize and legumes for sale at local markets and for their own tables.
Farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then either delivered directly to the cooperative’s wet mill or received at one of 4 collection points and then ferried over on the same day. Cherries are stringently hand sorted prior to pulping, with damaged and under ripe cherries being separated out 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 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. Wastewater is discarded in soaking pits, and is also recirculated for conservation. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, before being washed, soaked and spread out on raised drying tables. The coffee is then dried for between 7 to 15 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.
Some of the issues that farmers face are low production due to loss due to pests and diseases and the relatively high cost of inputs compared to income from coffee. Many cannot afford to plant disease resistant varieties and face being priced out of the market as their yields diminish. The cooperative has undertaken actions to increase yields and improve their member’s livelihoods and are currently looking for programs aimed at improving the participation of young people and women in coffee.
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. PB (denoting Peaberry) is the smallest screen size.