Farm: Theri Factory
Varietal: Ruiru 11, Batian, SL 34 and SL 28
Processing: Washed and sun-dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,500 - 1,600 metres above sea level
Owner: 800 smallholder producers
Town / City: Theri
Region: Mathioya Division, Murang'a County
Overall: Black currant, grape fruit, brown sugar
Theri AB - Kenya
Located within the Theri location in the Murang’a County known as the birthplace of the Kenyan independence movement, the Theri Factory (in Kenya, mills are known as factories), is a great indication for the high quality of coffee coming from Kenya. Murang’a is one of the five counties located in the Central region of Kenya, just East of the Great Rift Valley, and is bordered by Nyeri in the North, Kiambu in the South, Nyandarua in the West, and Kirinyaga in the East. Each of the 800 smallholders grow coffee on around 130 coffee trees. The Thumara River nearby is the source for water needed for processing the coffee and drinking water.
Theri Factory was first established in 1997 and is situated on 5 acres of land. A group of elected board members select the manager of the factory whilst also employing an additional seven members to handle logistics and running the factory.
The coffee is grown throughout the region on healthy deep red volcanic soils, 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, the clean water from the River 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.
Next, 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.