Farm: Gikanda Farmers Cooperative Society
Varietal: SL28 & SL34
Processing: Fully washed & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,600 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Approximately 700 smallholder farmers delivering to the Ndaroini wetmill
Town / City: Karatina
Region: Nyeri County, Central Kenya
Ndaroini AA - Kenya
This coffee was produced by smallholder farmer members of the Gikanda Farmers Co-operative Society delivering to the Ndaroini (Ndaro-ini) factory (as wet mills are called in Kenya). The factory, which was built in 1984 (before the Cooperative was even founded), is one of three (the others are Gichatha-ini & Kangocho) belonging to Gikanda and serves some 700 small holder farmers from the area surrounding Gatundu town.
Gikanda, which was established in 1996, is one of the most well-known cooperatives in Central Kenya and regularly produces stellar lots of coffee. They invest heavily in their factories and in their producers and put a great deal of time and attention into ensuring that processing is completed as perfectly as possible.
In addition to the wide-spread SL28 and SL34, producers are increasingly planting Ruiru 11 and Batian coffee varieites in the area, though this cooperative has yet to see significant production of these. Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the '70s and released in 1986. Batian (developed in 2011) is named after the highest peak on Mt. Kenya. These two varietals are slowly becoming more widespread in the region due to their resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust and have both been backcrossed with SL28 and SL34 to ensure high cup quality.
Farmers contributing to this lot, though very small scale and farming less than a hectare each, pay stringent attention to cultivation methods and regularly apply compost and farmyard manure to ensure soil fertility. Inorganic fertilisers are applied less frequently, though are often necessary throughout the year.
During the harvest, farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then delivered to the Ndaroini wet mill on the same day. Cherries are hand sorted prior to pulping, with damaged and under ripe cherries being separated out from the red, ripe lots, and are further defined into lots according to quality. After pulping the coffee is fermented for between 12 to 16 hours. After fermentation, the coffee is washed in clean, fresh river water from the nearby Ruvai-thanga river to remove all traces of mucilage before being delivered through sorting channels to dry on raised beds.
While it is drying, parchment coffee is sorted again to remove any discoloured or damaged beans. It is turned regularly over the course of the day and covered when the sun is at its hottest, thus controlling drying temperature. This slow drying process usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to achieve optimal humidity (11-12%). When ready, the parchment is then transported to the dry mill for dry milling and grading before it is transported to the warehouse for storage. The coffee is either sold through Nairobi central auction or exported directly to overseas buyers.
Coffee farming in this region goes back to the 1950s, but many members of the Cooperative rely on additional economic and agricultural activities for their livelihoods. In addition to producing coffee, most farmers in the area also produce macadamia, maize and dairy for sale at local markets and for their own tables.
Some of the issues that farmers face are low production due to loss due to pests and diseases and the relatively high cost of inputs. Many cannot afford to plant disease resistant varieties and face being priced out of the market as their yields diminish. It is perhaps no surprise that many young people in the region see no future in continuing to farm coffee. The Cooperative, which has achieved Fair Trade certification, is always looking to fund programs that will improve not only the livelihoods of their producers but also engage youth to continue to farm coffee. Programs initiated include investment in local primary schools, funding education for orphans within the community, establishing a health centre and replacing aging infrastructure. Recently, all three factories have seen metal drying beds replace a portion of the traditional wooden beds. These metal beds are more sanitary and sturdy.
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.