Blackcurrant. Rhubarb crumble. Brown sugar.
Washing Station: Wahundura
Farmers Cooperative Society: Kamachiria
Region: Murang'a County
Elevation: 1,750 - 1,850m
Variety: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 & Batian
Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
Wahundura is a washing station (or factory, as they are called in Kenya), built in the 1960s and located in Murang’a County in Kenya’s former Central Province. It is one of four active washing stations – along with its sisters Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro – owned by the Kamachiria Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Society (FCS). Kamachiria is made up of over 5,600 producers who farm in Kenya’s central highlands.
Wahundura receives coffee cherries from local members of the cooperative who grow coffee trees on nearby farms, located between 1750-1850 meters above sea level. The factory is managed by Catharine Wahu – the only female factory manager in the Kamachiria FCS – who oversees the collection and careful processing of the coffee cherries. Besides Catharine, Wahundura employs five permanent staff members from the local communities and an additional five or six workers during the season.
Murang’a County is part of Kenya’s former Central Province, which was dissolved in 2013. The area includes Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Nyandarua Counties, and is traditionally the homeland of people of Kikiyu ethnicity. The central highlands of Kenya are considered to be one of the wealthiest areas of the country, due to the incredibly fertile land, geographical proximity to the capital, Nairobi, and close integration with the country’s colonial administration before Kenya gained independence in 1962. This integration afforded the communities of Central Kenya with opportunities for education, business and political prowess, despite the various injustices of the colonial government. The Kikiyu people have a long and proud history of agriculture and the region is farmed intensively, with coffee, tea and dairy being the most important modern crops.
About Kamachiria Farmer’s Cooperative Society
Kamachiria FCS was formed in 1972. Most of their 5,600 farmer members inherited their farms from their parents who were existing members of the cooperative. Kamachiria now owns four washing stations – Wahundura, Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro. The cooperative 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.
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 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 8 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 Rwarai and Gatura Rivers 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 12 hours.
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. After drying the coffee is moved to conditioning beds, where it rests in parchment for about a month.