About This Coffee
Kamwangi factory is located in the Gichugu division of Kirinyaga district. The factory has the good fortune of being connected to the national electric grid, and washing resources are plentiful with the nearby Nyamindi river as the source. Kamwangi is part of the New Ngariama Farmers Cooperative Society ("FCS" - Kainamui is also under the New Ngariama umbrella of coops). Membership has reached nearly 1,000 farmers at Kamwangi, each with a tiny plot of coffee, generally 200 - 300 trees. Kamwangi farmers grow primarily SL-28, SL-34, and Ruiru 11 cultivars, benefitting from the red volcanic soils of Mt Kenya, and most stretch above 1800 meters above sea level. These factories are basically small washing stations set up in a particular area and are allied with a larger cooperative society - the FCS. Factories have wet mills, washing/fermenting channels, and raised beds where the coffees are basically processed all the way down to dried parchment (being meticulously sorted along the way). Kamwangi has a water recirculation system set up, as well as eight waste water soaking pits to help minimize the environmental impact.
After coffee cherry is harvested it is brought to the factory and then weighed. Smallholder farmers collect their earnings at that time. According to Dorman's trader Muki Yeung, Kamwangi was in the top 5 of highest prices for cherry in Kenya paid to producers this past season. “Quality is excellent because the factory is managed so well with regular trainings available to their members. They pay as much as 20c/lb for coffee cherry above other factories—so producers in that area who make the cut want to work with them.
Coffee cherry is then sent through a disk depulper removing most of the fruit, fermented for 24 hours, then washed again making the entire process 72 hours. Time in which parchment coffee dries heavily depends on the climate, ambient temperature, and volume being processed which could take up to 15 days and as little as one week.
Growing Coffee in Kenya
Coffee is grown through the highland regions of Kenya, including Kisii, Nyanza, and Bungoma in the west; Nakuru and Kericho in the Great Rift Valley; Machakos, Embu, and Meru to the east of Mt. Kenya; and the Taita hills near the coast. The largest and oldest coffee growing areas are the central highlands, particularly Nyeri, sandwiched between the foothills of Mt Kenya to the east and the Aberdare mountain range to the west. Most coffee in Kenya is grown between 1400 and 2000 meters. Nearly all of Kenya’s 700,000 coffee producers are small land holders belonging to cooperatives. Most common varieties in Kenya are Ruiru 11, SL28, SL34, and K7. SL34 and K7 were developed from heirloom bourbon known as “French Mission,” which was the primary variety grown prior to the 1930’s that can still be found today, as can Blue Mountain on some farms. Kenyan coffees are graded by screen size and while there are several grades, specialty coffee is AA, AB, or PB (peaberry), used in combination with quality grade FAQ or FAQ Plus (Fair Average Quality).
History of Coffee in Kenya
It seems likely that coffee grew wild within the region that would become Kenya, buried deep inside impenetrable forests, or perhaps hiding in plain site; but it wasn’t until 1895 that missionaries both protestant and catholic attempted to grow coffee for commercial purposes. The 100 seeds from Reunion Island that would serve as progenitors to the Kenyan coffee industry arrived on a train, carried by priests belonging to an order known as “Holy Ghost Fathers.” On August 12th, 1899, they arrived at the spot that would quickly become the country’s capital city. One of the early protestant medical missionaries was Dr. Henry Scott. After his death in 1911, a new hospital complex was named after Dr. Scott and when the department of agriculture took over the complex in 1923 they kept the name: Scott Agricultural Laboratories, or “Scott Labs.” This is the origin of the “SL” in SL28 and other coffee varieties selected at the lab.
Farm: Kamwangi Factory
Elevation: 1100-1800 MASL
Varieties: Ruiru 11, SL28, Batian
Tasting notes: Tropical with grilled pineapple, tamarind, dried mango, cola, and salted honey.