Country: KENYA
Region: Gitugi, Muranga district
Owners: 785 smallholder farmers
Altitude: 1,700 metres above sea level
Variety: SL28 and SL34, Ruiru 11
Processing: Washed

Fruity, sweet and juicy, crisp malic acidity. Currants, oranges and lemons.

About Kahete (with thanks to Melbourne Coffee Merchants)

Kahete Coffee Factory is located north of Nairobi in Muranga County, near the town of Gitugi. It was established in 1978 and rests on a 5 acre piece of land serving Karunge, Gataragwa and Kirimiya villages. Currently it is affiliated to Rwaikamba Farmers Co-operative Society and run by James Ndoho, the factory manager.

This area of Kenya experiences a biannual production cycle with the early harvest being from March-May and the late second season being from October-December. The main varieties of coffee grown here are SL-28 and 34, and Ruiru 11. The SL-28 and SL-34 account for 97% of all coffee produced, while Ruiru 11 is around 3% of the total production. Kahete currently has 785 small-holder member producers who have small farms located at an average of 1,800m above sea level. The high altitude means that the coffee fruit is able to mature slowly, and this, combined with rich volcanic soil and careful processing all help to highlight the inherent complex fruit flavours from the SL-28 and SL-34 varieties. Both cultivars have Bourbon and Moka heritage and named after the laboratory that promoted their wider distribution in Kenya during the early 20th Century – Scott Laboratories.

Kahete Coffee Factory receives assistance from the Coffee Management Services (CMS) group, who are on the ground directly helping producers improve their productivity and quality through training and education programs. Their objective is to establish a transparent and trust-based relationship with their small-holder farmers and ensure sustained industry growth by helping producers improve their quality, which in turn improves the premiums paid and ultimately has a positive impact on their quality of life.

As part of their program, CMS provide pre-financing to producers for school fees and farm inputs. The factory manager is provided with training every year, which includes field training days with the Minister of Agriculture and agrochemical companies that deliver inputs to the farmers. Demonstration plots at the factory to reinforce the best practices for the producing members.

After being carefully hand picked, the ripe cherry is brought to the factory by small-holder farmers, where it is weighed and then processed using the washed processing method. The coffee is pulped using a disc pulper with three sets of discs to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean. Waste water used in the processing is discarded in soaking pits, and is also recirculated for conservation. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, before it is cleaned and soaked for a further 24 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity and clarity in the cup. After soaking, the coffee is spread out on the raised drying tables. Time on the drying tables depends on climate, ambient temperature and volumes under processing, and can take from 7 to 15 days in total.

Coffee in Kenya is graded according to the size of the bean and the quality. The definition clearly defines the size, and to some extent, they also assume the quality is linked to the size of the bean. While this is often true – AA lots (screen size 18+) are often superior coffees – in this case we found the AB lot to be superior with more complexity in the cup. The result is a really special coffee that has a beautiful sparkling green apple acidity, candied orange sweetness and notes of red currants, lemon blossom and raisin.