Farm: Mutungati Farmers Society
Varietal: SL28, SL34 and some Ruiru 11
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: Mill: 2,100 metres above sea level
Owner: approx. 250 smallholder members
Town / City: Mairu Kumi
Region: Nakuru Province
Overall: Clean, cherry, plum w/bright acidity.
Mutungati AB - Kenya
This AB lot was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Mutungati Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS) delivering to Mutungati Coffee Factory (as washing stations/wet mills are called in Kenya). The factory is located near the town of Mairu Kumi, in Kenya’s Nakuru Province. Nakuru is located in Kenya’s Rift Valley (the cradle of humanity).
All coffees in this region are very high-grown, with a low of 1,800 metres and a high reaching 2,200 metres. Soils are diverse, ranging from volcanic grey loam to Red Volcanic (similar to the Central Provice). The history of coffee farming is quite different than the more familiar colonial crop of the areas surrounding Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi. Coffee in Nakuru was established much later. Although it is a region where there is much room for growth, the county is home to only 9 washing stations and all FCS operating within the County only manage one washing station. Compare this to, say, the nearly 100 factories that pepper Kiambu – one of Kenya’s more famous coffee farming counties. Part of the problem has less to do with the county’s remoteness and rather is due to the very tough coffee-growing conditions. Temperatures are cold and many trees do not thrive in the very high altitudes. Where they do thrive, however, some really exceptional lots can emerge.
Processing at Mutungati 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 in clean water pumped from the River Theta 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.
Mutungati FCS members rely mainly on coffee production for their livelihoods, but dairy cattle farming programs have recently seen some success in the region.
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.