We arrived in Kenya like previous years anticipating not only the amazing coffees we would cup, the farmers we would meet some old friends, new ones and of course the animals we would encounter. Exotic beautiful Kenya did not disappoint.
We began our journey on day one with a visit to Nairobi National Park. It is always a gamble whether the animals will show themselves. Luck was with us this time around. Beautiful giraffes, a lioness, gazelles and very faraway white rhino….
We traveled from the park to Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. A remarkable organization open between 11am and 12 noon to visit the baby elephants during their feeding. Abandoned or orphaned they live to return to the wild eventually. So graceful, so fun. Then of course Giraffes to feed at the wildlife center.
And on to lunch at Karen Blixen’s estate a la “Out of Africa” .
Overall the production in Kenya is declining. Down some 100 thousand bags this year. The root causes, brief rains in March and April of 2019, Extended drought conditions from April until October, as a result, poor flowering, stressed trees and come October ongoing rains thru January. Still raining when we departed on Feb 1. Coffee was not able to dry. The crop is very late to arrive. Quality coffees are just arriving at auction. Customers should be prepared for in some cases lower quality, certainly less availability and as a result the higher end of the market will see higher pricing.
It is important to note overall farmers some 800,000 smallholders in Kenya are looking to plant more lucrative crops. Sagging coffee prices, climate change, higher labor costs, higher input costs, have moved farmers away from coffee in general.
One upside of this year’s saga is the potential for an amazing early crop come April of this year. Trees on many of the farms we visited were laden with green cherry.
Following that we traveled to their warehouse.
Monday our first day in full swing in Nairobi, we met in the morning to cup with Taylor Winch. Although still seeing some limited arrivals we found some great coffees on the table. We would return after our adventures at the coffee factories and estates on Friday to cup another group of over 50 coffees and choose our favorites among them.
After cupping on Monday, we traveled to the Taylor Winch warehouse.
To see them receive green from the Auction, clean and sort one more time and ship the coffee to port.
Tuesday we traveled to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange to witness the auction and see the sample room.
then on to Kiambu to visit farms that are working to improve quality and market access through the program Volcafe Way. We met three farmers, Rosemary Nungari who runs the Gichuka farm for her father has 12 thousand trees. Paul Njau Kangere at Rigua Farm who owns 2000 trees of a shared 7000 tree farm and Daniel Njoroge of Ciumenene Farm. All looking to improve their coffees thru better agricultural practices and their quality of life by producing better quality coffee at larger volumes.
Wednesday on to Ruiru in Kiambu County to visit Mchana Estate. A continual favorite of Mercanta’s, We met Timothy Kingori Murithi the factory supervisor who gave us a tour of the facility from cherry to parchment and even the hippo pond…
He has worked with Mchana for 24 years, 20 as the factory supervisor. From there to the Rithu Farmers Cooperative who manage Handege and Wamuguma Factories that work with 1700 farmers in the cooperative. Typical varieties these farmers plant are SL28- the most common, SL 34, Ruiru and Batian. Clear instructions on how to sort at the Sorting shed .
From there we raced to our hotel at the Mountain Lodge on the edge of Mount Kenya National Park.
Thursday an early start took us to Kiandu where we spent the day with Charles Mwangi, factory manager, and James Kamau Wachira farmer and board representative for the Kiandu zone. They visit the factory once or twice a week so we were delighted we could meet them. 1200 farmers deliver to the Kiandu factory. Varietals are SL28, Ruiru- 11 pictured here. Along with Batian. The latter varietals developed for disease resistance and yield.
We traveled back to Nairobi that afternoon to rest up for an extensive cupping day. Samples are arriving in our offices as we speak as the crop begins to fill the market. Never disappointed with the coffees or the nature in Kenya…kwaheri kwa sasa