Kenya – Kagumoini Peaberry
Kagumoini is a secondary cooperative of the Mugaga Society Cooperative Society, situated on the slopes of Mount Kenya, Central Province. It is comprised of around 1,000 small-holder growers. The region has red volcanic loam soils and good rainfall. The sought after Arabica coffee varieties SL28 and SL34 are grown under shade. The small-holders also grow tea, maize, beans, bananas and vegetables. Kagumoini has several initiatives aimed at uplifting the living standards of its members and employees. These include: Credit facilities for school fees and medical emergencies, provision of farm inputs on credit and field days to train farmers on better farming methods.
The coffee is handpicked by the smallholder members and delivered to the Kagumoini factory where it is pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature ‘mbuni’s (floaters) using water floatation which means the denser beans will sink and be sent through channels to the fermentation tank. This first stage of fermentation will last for around 24 hours, after which the beans are washed and sent to the secondary fermentation tank for another 12-24 hours. Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for
as long as another 24 hours. This soaking process allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean to develop which results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup – it is thought that this process of soaking contributes to the flavour profiles that Kenyan coffees are so famed for. The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where they are laid in a thin layer to allow around 50% of the moisture to be quickly removed. This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 5-10 days of the drying period. The dry parchment coffee is then delivered to a private mill and put into ‘bodegas’ to rest – these are raised cells made of chicken wire which allows the coffee to breathe fully. Coffee is traditionally sold through the country’s auction system, though recent amendments to the coffee law of Kenya have brought about the introduction of direct trading whereby farmers can by-pass the auction and sell directly to speciality roasters around the world. It is this system we have chosen for our purchasing since we believe it brings about better returns for the smallholder.
SL28: This varietal was created in the 1930s by Scott Laboratories as botanists searched for different mutations of Bourbon and Typica. It has copper coloured leaves and its beans are broad. It is native to Kenya and is relatively low yielding, however the cup qualities are highly sought after. Characteristics can include intense lemon acidity, great sweetness, balance and complexity.
SL34: SL34 was also created in the 1930s as a mutation between Bourbon and Typica. It differs to SL28 as it has bronze tipped leaves. This could perhaps mean it has greater similarity to the Typica varietal. SL34 is known to be fairly resistant to heavy rainfall at high altitudes and produces top quality coffee with complex citrus acidity and a heavy mouthfeel.
Coffee growing in Kenya:
Despite its proximity to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, coffee growing was introduced to Kenya relatively late – by Scottish missionaries, initially, and then commercially around 1900. Today however, it is a country renowned for having some of the best coffees in the world. Originally coffee was grown on large British-owned farms, but after the country’s independence in 1963, the coffee sector (including production) was turned over primarily to Kenyans. Today, the country’s primary growing regions are situated in the Central Highlands – on the high plateau just north and north-east of Nairobi, on the southern slopes of Mount. Kenya to the north, and in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains to the west. The majority of the country’s coffee (around 55 percent) is produced by upwards of 600,000 smallholders, organised into several hundred cooperatives. The rest of the country’s production is by medium and large estates, many of which run their own wet- and sometimes also dry-mills.
The country’s location on the equator allows for two harvests per year. Coffees are usually fully washed, then dried in the sun on raised drying screens – frequently known as ‘African beds’.