Farm: Rugi Farmers Co-Operative Society
Varietal: Sl28, SL34, K7, Ruiru 11 & Batian
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: Approx. 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: Approx. 600 members deliver to washing station; FCS=Approx. 4,500 members
Town / City: Mukurweini District
Region: Nyeri County, Central Kenya
Overall: Orange, lemon, caramel & bright
Igutha AB - Kenya
This AB lot was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Rugi Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS) delivering to Igutha (sometimes spelled Igutua) Coffee Factory (as washing stations/wet mills are called in Kenya). The factory is located in Kenya’s Nyeri County, within the Mukurweini District.
The society was registered in 2005 and has around 4,500 active members. Only around 600 members deliver coffee cherry to the Igutua factory. The remainder deliver to one of the cooperative’s other factories, of which there are seven (Mihuti, Giathugu, Mweru, Kanyiriri, Mutitu and Karundu are the others).
Rugi FCS was formed in the wake of a split of another cooperative. Learning from past experiences, services to their membership is one of their top priorities. Their goal is to increase coffee production through farmer training, Good Agricultural Practice seminars, and sustainable farming practices. Smallholder members have access to advances for farm inputs along with training in crop husbandry and land management. Through the financing the cooperative receives, farmers are given monetary assistance for school and farm improvements. Factory managers are trained annually to be at the forefront of sustainable practices and quality control for their increasing production.
Accordingly, processing at the Igutha wet mill adheres to stringent quality-driven methods. All coffee cherries are handpicked and are delivered to the mill the same day, where they undergo meticulous sorting. Factory employees oversee the process and any underripe or damaged cherries will not be accepted by the ‘Cherry Clerk’ – one of the most important harvest-period staff, who keeps meticulous records of how much coffee each producer delivers on any given day (and thus how much payment is due once the coffee has sold). Any rejected coffee will have to be taken home again, and the farmer will need to find a place to dry it (often a tarp in the yard) to be delivered only at the end of season as low quality ‘Mbuni’ – natural process coffee that earns a very low price. Thus, farmer members are incentivised to only pick and deliver the ripest cherry that they can.
After being weighed and logged, the weight of the delivery and the farmer’s identification are recorded in the Cherry Clerk’s register and the cherries are introduced into the hopper to be pulped. Pulping will only begin when a sufficient quantity of cherries has been received.
After pulping the cherries are delivered to one of the factory’s fermentation tanks, where it will ferment for between 12 to 48 hours depending on the ambient temperature at the time. After this, the coffee is fully washed to remove all traces of mucilage, during which time it will be graded. The coffee will then either be delivered to dry on the factory’s raised drying beds or will be soaked under circulating water for up to 24 hours, depending on if there is room on the factory’s beds (during the peak of the season, there is often a backlog). The coffee will dry here slowly over the course of 2 to 3 weeks, during which time it will be turned regularly and covered during the hottest part of the day.
Coffee farming in Nyeri goes back far into Kenya’s colonial past, but many members of the Cooperative still 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.
Some of the issues that farmers face are low production 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. By paying the producers some of the highest returns for their coffee this objective can be achieved.
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.