Mutheka Farmers Cooperative Society is a relatively new entity formed in 2004. It comprises more than 6000 active farmer members, approximately 900 of which use the Kigwandi factory.
Cherries collected from the farmers in the region are bulked together and washed, fermented, and laid out on raised beds to dry. The Cooperative puts a lot of focus on quality and is known for meticulously sorting through the whole process.
Processing at the Kigwandi wet plant sticks to severe quality-driven strategies. All cherries are handpicked and conveyed to the plant that day, where they go through careful sorting. Processing station workers supervise the collecting, and any underripe or harmed cherries won’t be accepted by the ‘Cherry Clerk’ – one of the main harvest period staff. This person keeps careful records of how much coffee every picker brings daily. And consequently, how much installment is expected once the beans have been sold to the exporter.
After depulping, the coffee is fermented in tanks for 48 hours and then soaked for a second fermentation of 24 hours.
Once the mucilage is removed, the coffee parchment is taken to raised beds. Here lies for 2-3 weeks, depending on the climate, until it has desired humidity level.
This double fermentation or “Kenya Wash” contributes to incredible deep sweetness and complex acidity.
In Kenya, a specific system of grading is used. This system assumes that the bigger(screen size) the bean, the higher quality and thus price should be. The highest quality beans are marked AA.
During the years, we observed that lots marked AB or peaberries could taste as good as AAs.
When searching for Kenyan beans, most coffee buyers look for SL varieties. We are no exception here.
Our Kigwandi lot consists of SL 28 and SL 34. Scott laboratories, from here SL, created varieties in the 30s of the 20th century to be disease resistant. Both varieties’ cup quality and yield are very similar, yet some cuppers consider 34 inferior to 28 in taste quality and clarity.
SL28 is remarkable for its water stress tolerance. It can last for years unattended with no targeted irrigation and still bears fruit.
SL 34 thrives in high altitudes with frequent rainfalls. It is adaptable to plant density-rich areas. But here lies the danger of passing diseases from plant to plant, so farmers must follow strict cultivation protocols.