Blackcurrant, brown sugar and dried apricot.
Washing Station: Gachuiro
Farmers Cooperative Society: Kiama FCS
Region: Nyeri County
Elevation: 1,750 - 1,950 masl
Variety: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 & Batian
Coffee Grade: AB
Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
Gachuiro is a washing station (or factory, as they are called in Kenya) located on the eastern side of Mt. Kenya National Park, in the Karatina Municipality of Keya’s Nyeri County. It is one of four active washing stations – along with its sister factories, Kiangundo, Ichuga and Kiamaina – owned by the Kiama Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Society (FCS).
Gachuiro receives coffee cherries from about 480 (260 male and 220 female) of the cooperative’s farmer members who grow coffee trees on nearby shambas, located across an elevation of 1,700-1,950 meters above sea level. Once harvested, coffee cherries are delivered to Gachuiro, where they are processed and dried under the management of Ephraim Mwangi Karangi, ahead of being transported to Nairobi for sale (either directly or through the auction system). Besides Ephraim, Gachuiro employs five permanent staff members and an additional seven workers during the season.
About Kiama Farmers’ Cooperative Society
Kiama FCS was formed in 2005 when two existing cooperatives merged into one. Most of their 2,100 farmer members inherited their farms from their parents who were members of those cooperatives. Kiama now owns four washing stations in Nyeri (Gachuiro, Kiangundo, Ichuga and Kiamaina), along with a cherry collection point, Inwagi. Kiama FCS supports its farmer members by offering pre-harvest financing, allowing them to plan and invest in the upcoming crop. They also buy inputs in bulk and distribute them to members at a lower cost than otherwise possible.
Kiama has six members on its board, which is currently overseen by Chairman Charles Nolamburi Ngure and Senior Manager Iddah Rose Wangui Kigathi. Board members must be active farmers and are re-elected every three years, to avoid corruption. The cooperative employs 24 permanent staff members, who work out of their office in the town of Baricho, some 130km north of Nairobi.
Kiama FCS employ Sucastainability as their marketing agent. Chairman Ngurevalues Sucastainability’s services for their on the ground approach to improving productivity and quality through training and education programs. Beyond this, Sucastainability connects Kiama FCS to specialty focused buyers (like MCM) that will pay high premiums for exceptional quality.
How This Lot Was Processed
All the coffee cherry is hand-picked and delivered on the same day to the washing station, where it undergoes meticulous sorting. This is also done by hand and is overseen by a ‘cherry clerk’ who ensures any unripe and damaged cherries are removed. The ripe cherry is then digitally weighed and recorded, and the farmer receives a receipt of delivery.
The coffee is then placed in a receiving tank and pulped using a four-disc pulping machine to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean. After being pulped, the coffee is sorted by weight using water, with the highest quality and densest beans being separated out from the lighter, lower-quality beans.
The coffee is then dry fermented for 20–24 hours, to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the beans. Whilst the coffee is fermenting it is checked intermittently and when it is ready it is rinsed and removed from the tanks and placed in a washing channel.
The parchment-covered coffee is then washed with fresh water from the nearby Ragati River and sent through water channels for grading by weight. The heavier coffee, which sinks, is considered the higher quality, sweeter coffee, and any lighter density or lower grade coffee beans are removed. The beans are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit underwater for a further 48 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity.
After soaking, the coffee is pumped onto deep drying beds where they drain for 1-2 hours, before being transferred to raised drying tables (also known as African beds). As they dry the parchment is turned constantly to ensure even drying, and so that any defective beans can be identified removed. Time on the drying tables depends on the weather, ambient temperature and processing volume: taking anywhere from one to three weeks to get to the target moisture of 11–12%. After drying the coffee is moved to conditioning beds, where it rests in parchment for about a month. This resting period helps to stabilise water activity and contributes to long-lasting quality and vibrancy in the cup.
Once the coffee is ready it is transported to Kahawa Bora Mill (“good coffee mill”) to be dry milled and prepared for shipping. Kahawa Bora is located in Thika, about 1hrs drive from Nairobi.