Farm: Karani Factory
Varietal: SL 34 and SL 28
Processing: Washed and sun-dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,550 - 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: 600 smallholder producers
Town / City: Kabare
Region: Gichugu Division, Kirinyaga County
Overall: Molasses, milk chocolate, cherry
Karani AB - Kenya
The Karani Factory is situated within the Kabare location of the Gichungu Division of the Kirinyaga County. Situated at the foothills of Mt. Kenya, Kirinyaga County is roughly 112 km from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, bordering Embu County to the East, Machakos to the South, Murang’a to the Southwest, and Nyeri to the West.
The locals in this area call Mt. Kenya Kirinyaga, the namesake of the county, meaning the crest of whiteness due to the famous snow-capped peaks. The Karani Factory is associated with the Kabare Farmers’ Cooperative Society comprising nine other factories within the area. Mills in Kenya are known as factories. The Karani Factory was built in 1998 when it also opened its doors for processing. Collectively, the 600 members of the Factory grow coffee on 134,000 trees, producing around 455 MT of cherries each year.
Smallholders grow coffee alongside other cash crops such as potatoes, bananas, mangoes, avocadoes in addition to livestock including cows for milk, chickens for eggs and meat.
The coffee is grown throughout the region on healthy deep red volcanic soils thanks to the extinct Mt. Kenya’s ashes that landed throughout the area, high in nutrients and organic matter. This soil is ideal for coffee production and give the trees the necessary resources to allocate energy to high-quality coffee production.
Harvest generally occurs amongst the cooperative members between October and December. In some cases, early crop can be harvested between April and July.
The coffee trees are carefully monitored and picking ensues only when the cherry is at the ideal level of ripeness. Picking occurs in the morning and buckets of bright red coffee cherries are carried to the mill. As the sun traverses across the sky into the afternoon, the cherries are piled high as underripe cherries and foreign objects are removed from the gleaming pile. The cherries are then poured into a hopper located just above the pulping station.
From here, clean water from the River Ragati is drawn upwards and directed into the hopper to cover the coffee cherries. This force pushes the cherries down a chute into the pulping house. Here, the outer pulp is removed thanks to the work of two rotating abrasive slabs. The de-pulped coffee is then moved via the force of a water channel towards a fermentation tank. Along the way, floaters, or lower quality coffee beans, are removed to ensure only the highest quality continue along the process. The denser beans are funnelled through a hole where they land into a fermentation tank to rest for the evening.
The following morning, workers assess the feel of the sticky mucilage remaining on the coffee. If it has reached the ideal level, water is placed over the beans to give them a final wash. From here, sluice gates open to move the coffee into washing channels where the coffee slides down a gently sloping tiled channel. Wooden shunts used by workers are manually placed into the coffee to separate the denser beans from the lighter beans.
From here, the coffee is evenly dispersed onto raised tables, under careful surveillance. If it is too sunny, or rain is in the forecast, the parchment is carefully covered. Moisture is regulated until the target of 10-12% is reached. The parchment is bagged up and transported to the dry mill.
After being hulled, the coffee rests and is soon filled into 60kg hermetically lined Jute export bags.
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.