Farm: Nguguini Factory
Varietal: SL28, SL34 & Ruiru 11
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,600 to 1,800 metres above sea level
Owner: Kibirigwi Farmers’ Cooperative Society
Town / City: Karatina & Kibingoti Towns
Overall: refined sugar, cola, wine, floral, red grapefruit, silky
Ngugu-ini AA - Kenya
This coffee was produced by numerous smallholder farmers, all of whom are members of the Kibirigwi Farmers’ Co-operative Society (FCS), located within Kenya’s Kirinyaga County. The cooperative has nine wet mills (factories, as they are known in Kenya), each serving nearby but separate areas: Ragati, Ngugu-ini (where this coffee was milled), Mukangu, Kiangai, Kibingoti, Thunguri, Kianjege, Chewa and Kibirigwi Factories. The cooperative is the second largest in Kirinyaga, with something like 7,300+ members in total. The flagship factory was Ragati, which continues to be one of the largest in the group. Nguguini (sometimes spelled Ngugu-ini) has around 1,500 active members who deliver cherry annually.
Kirinyaga is famous for its coffee, and Nguguini lies very close to the coffee-famous region of Nyeri, as well. The credentials of the location are indisputable. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Nguguini bears its own great reputation for being an exceptional factory. They have won multiple awards for various lots over the year and are widely recognized as ‘one to watch’ when it comes to the best of Kenya’s new crop coffees.
In addition to the wide-spread SL28 and SL34, this lot contains some Ruiru 11 (2% or less). Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the '70s and released in 1986. Over the last decade, Ruiru 11 has become almost as ubiquitous as the SL varieties, due to its resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust. The variety has been backcrossed with SL28 and SL34 to ensure high cup quality.
Farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then delivered to the cooperative’s 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. After pulping the coffee is fermented for between 16 and 24 hours. After fermentation, the coffee is washed and density graded in clean, fresh river water to remove all traces of mucilage before being soaked and then delivered to dry on raised beds. Time on the drying tables depends on climate, ambient temperature and total production volume undergoing processing. Drying can take from 7 to 15 days in total. 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.
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. This is a challenge across much of Kenya, and one way cooperatives such as Kibirigwi must confront in the future.
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.