About the Coffee
Flavour description: An acidity driven cup with light to medium body and a juicy mouthfeel. Notes of fresh strawberry, red currants and gooseberry with a lemon citrus acidity in the lingering finish.
Colour: Light pink
Washing station: Kamwangi Factory
Location: Gichugu division of the Kirinyaga district
Varietal: SL-34, SL-28 and Ruiru 11
Harvested: October 2018 to December 2018
Drying: On raised beds for 12-20 days. Covered with plastic when the sun is hottest.
Cooperative: New Ngariama Cooperative Society
Altitude: 1600-1800 masl
Soil: Mainly Nitisol, red volcanic soil. Nitisols occur in highlands and on volcanic steep slopes. They are developed from volcanic rocks and have better chemical and physical properties than other tropical soils.
Processing: Fully Washed. Cherries are hand sorted to pick out unripe and overripe ones by the farmers before they go in to production. A pulping machine removes the skin and pulp. The coffees are graded by density in to 3 grades by the pulper. Grade 1 and 2 go separately to fermentation. Grade 3 is considered low grade. The coffee is fermented for 24-36 hour under closed shade. After fermentation the coffees are washed and again graded by density in washing channels then they soak overnight in clean water.
Kenya is one of Drop Coffees main origins from which we have been buying coffee ever since the company’s early days. We love its unique cup profiles. The character of a great Kenyan coffee has no likeness in other origins, particularly when it comes to its most unique attributes, such as crisp clear acidity and the notes of blackcurrants and rhubarb. A coffee from Kenya can act as a great introduction to speciality coffee for those whom have never previously experienced it: a chance to highlight the potential of truly characteristic coffee.
Drop and Kamwangi
We are so in love with Kamwangi and have been a loyal buyer for 5 years now. This year we decided on having both the AA and the AB, and have previously also bought the Peaberry, the smallest screen size.
Introduction of the factory Kamwangi
Kamwangi factory is one of two factories (in Kenya the process stations / wet mills are called factories) under the cooperative named New Ngariama Cooperative Society located in the region of Kirinyaga in the hills surrounding mount Kenya, with a third factory soon to become operational. This area is less known than its neighbour Nyeri, but has surprised us from the beginning with some outstanding and memorable coffees.
The New Ngariama Cooperative Society is mainly made up by small farms, each with around 100 trees. In the Gichugu division of the Kirinyaga district where the surrounding farms to Kamwangi are located, this years picking season started in early October 2018 and finished in December 2018. The farmers are organized in Cooperative Societies that act as umbrella organizations for Kamwangi and their other cooperative, where the smallholders deliver their coffee cherries for processing freshly every day after picking in a period of about two months, normally delivering about 25-50 kilo by foot or bike for a few kilometers. When arriving at the factory, each producer will sort their cherries manually to separate defect and lower grade since they are paid more in relation to quality (grade one being the highest).
Part of what makes the Kenyan taste profile so unique is achieved through the highly controlled way in which it is processed and sorted. Rigorous sorting is done at each stage of the processing and the dry milling, creating an extremely consistent final product. Once the cherries are delivered to the factory and have been sorted for over and under ripe cherries, they are generally de-pulped directly by a large 4-disced pulper, which removes the cherry from the coffee bean. The coffee is from here on known as parchment.
This pulper also acts as the next stage of sorting, as the low density beans float to the top of water channels after the pulp is removed and are washed down into a separate fermentation tank from the denser, higher quality beans. Once they are de-pulped, the coffee parchment is fermented in large concrete tanks overnight, breaking down the sugary layer (mucilage) so that it may easily be removed during the washing process. Fermentation can take 12-16 hours depending on the temperature.
The farm manager checks when the coffee has finished fermented by rubbing the parchment between their hands: if there is abrasion, then the mucilage has deteriorated sufficiently and the coffee may be washed further along the line to the washing channels. If the parchment is allowed to ferment further, its delicate flavour characteristics would be ruined so washing must occur at a very particular time in order to stop the fermentation process.
The parchment is washed in fresh water in order to remove the residual sugars from the mucilage and is here further sorted by density. Lower density beans are once again separated to be sold as lower grade coffee whilst the higher density parchment is held back by gates in the channels whilst workers sweep along the channels with paddles in order to move the coffee. Once the washing process is complete, the coffee is moved to drying beds in order to lower the moisture content to a stable level before storage.
During the warmest hours of the day the coffee is being covered to protect the beans from too much sunshine (that can damage the beans) and to keep the drying time longer.
If the drying beds are full, the higher grade coffee is often stored overnight in tanks of clean water to prevent any further fermentation whilst the parchment waits to be moved to the drying tables. On the drying tables the coffee is sorted and stirred by hand in order to ensure an even drying, until the moisture content reaches 13% when it is moved to conditioned bins for storage where they sink about 1.5% more.
The beans are graded after bean size where AA is screen 17/18; AB is screen 15/16 with a tolerance for 10% below screen 15. This is the AA version of the Kamwangi, we’re also having the AB from Kamwangi, and truly encourage you to try them both.
The past few years Kenya’s coffee production has been struggling a lot with coffee berry disease (CBD) and tough weather conditions due to climate changes. This has led to more people planting the varietal Batian which is more resistant than SL28 and SL34 for eample. However, the Batian plant is not always as high in acidity or as intense as the Kenyan coffee we have had the last decade that Kenyan coffee has been known for. The soil and the weather is changing due to climate changes
Payment & Longterm Investments
Visiting Kamwangi factory in December 2016, the manager Edwin Gichori was quick to speak of the work being done at the factory in order to help raise quality levels and of where changes can be made in the long-term.
In 2017, Kamwangi was able to pay their farmers 75 Kenyan Shillings per kilo of delivered coffee cherries, which is on the higher side of premiums we found whilst traveling. Although it is ours and the factories cooperative aim to raise this in the future.
Kamwangi gives a small advance payment to the farmers at delivery. Some well-managed wet mills are able to give more than 85% of the sales price back to the farmers; Kamwangi was able to give back 80% in 2017 after cost of milling and marketing is deducted.
Registered in 1997, Kamwangi is Rainforest Alliance certified and have a good structure for tracking payments to producers. They also have established soaking pits for waste water treatment as well as a good quality control systems for processing.
The FOB prices for this coffee is 3,74 USD a pound. The current world coffee market price is currently under 1 USD a pound, which is not covering for the coffee’s production cost and gives no profit for the farmers.