Varietal: SL28, SL34 & some Ruiru
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Overall: dark cherry, cranberry, juicy, hibiscus, black tea
Kangunu AA - Kenya
This coffee was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Kagaari South Farmers Cooperative Society delivering to the Kangunu Coffee Factory, located Kenya’s Embu district near the town of Runyenjes. The region, located on the slopes of Mounth Kenya, is well-known for producing some of the best coffees coming out of Kenya, today, and this AA lot is no exception. The factory was established very early – in 1966 – and has stood the test of time. The cooperative society itself was established somewhat later, but today it has more than 2,500 members. Between 1,000 and 700 of these members deliver to the Kangunu Factory (one of five that the cooperative owns).
Temperature in the region ranges from 12 to 25 degrees Celsius year-round, with a bimodal rainfall about 1,600mm per year. Production happens once from March to June and again from October to December. The average smallholder farm size is less than an hectare with half an acre planted in coffee for an average of 250 trees per farmer.
Kangunu 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.
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. The nearest water source is the Kangunu stream, and the factory is dependent on electrical pumps to move water to reservoir tanks before using it for processing. Water is also recirculated for conservation. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, before being washed through washing channels (which separate for density), 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.
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.