Farm: Kamwangi Factory; New Ngariama Farmers Cooperative Society
Varietal: SL28, Ruiru 11 & Batian
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,100 to 1,800 metres above sea level
Owner: Approx. 1,000 members of New Ngariama Farmers Cooperative Society
Town / City: Nyangeni sub-location, Ngariama Location
Region: Kirinyaga District, Central Province
Kamwangi AA - Kenya
This coffee was produced by various smallholder farmers belonging to the Ngariama Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS) delivering to the Kamwangi wet mill (locally known as a ‘factory’), located in the northwest of Kenya’s Kirinyaga district.
Kamwangi is one of three factories run by New Ngariama FCS. This was the second factory for the FCS and was established by the Co-op in 1983. With increasing volume pressure on both Kamwangi and Kainamui (the first factory) the Co-op recently established and began processing at their third factory, Kiamugumo. Considering that Kenyan coffee yields are diminishing annually, this fact is telling of the FCS’s great organisational and traceability systems. Farmers in this region have many options for membership and milling coffee, and many factories across the country are far UNDER capacity. That New Ngariama is actually expanding in the current climate speaks to the exceptional ability of the organisation and their commitment to their members. The factory is currently managed by Lemmy Nyaga.
Kirinyaga is famous for its coffee. The credentials of the location are indisputable. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Kamwangi coffees are also exceptional. The area has deep, well drained and fertile red volcanic soil at altitudes of 1,100+ metres above sea level with around 1,400mm of rainfall annually. Smallholder members of this factory have access to training and technical advice in an effort to increase yields.
The main varieties of coffee grown here is SL28 and Ruiru 11, with some Batian. Most farmers in the area grow tea in addition to coffee, and many (in recent years) have begun farming tea. Tea is somewhat less demanding to grown and yeilds regular crops throughout the year.
Under the watchful eye of Lemmy, processing at the Gakundu 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 24 to 36 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 be delivered to dry on the factory’s raised drying beds where it will dry slowly over the course of 12 to 20 days, during which time it will be turned regularly and covered during the hottest part of the day.
Kamwangi factory receives assistance from our partner at origin, Coffee Management Services (CMS). The affiliate members of the factory carry out all agronomic activities themselves, including sourcing seeds from the Coffee Research Station in Ruiru, and planting them out. Other fieldwork carried out by the farmers are weeding, pruning, spraying, and application of fertilizer and mulching. They have a field committee conducting farm visits to supervise that guidelines are being followed – and that coffee is not intercropped with maize and beans. The long term goal is to increase coffee production through farmer training and input access, and Good Agricultural Practice seminars are conducted year round. The aim of the partnership is to establish a transparent, trust based relationship with the smallholder farmer, helping to support a sustained industry growth in Kenya, whilst bringing premium quality to our customers, and premium prices to the farmers.
From funds set aside from the previous year’s harvest, members of the cooperative can access pre-financing for school fees, access to farm inputs and funds for emergency needs. Currently the factory offers farm inputs on credit and cash advances to farmers as incentives.
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.