Gichugu Coffee Factory lies on the rich volcanic soils near Mt Kenya, at a relatively high 1680 meters above sea level. The factory began in the 1970s.
Coffee is picked by the farmers and brought to the factory from the nearby villages of Kamviu, Gichugu and Manyatta. As well as coffee, some of these farmers also grow crops of bananas, maize, beans, and macadamia.
Once it arrives at the factory, the coffee cherries are processed to remove the skin and pulp – known as the wet processing method.
The factory is using a disc pulper with three sets of discs to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that is protecting the green coffee bean. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, before it is cleaned, soaked and 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.
Waste water from processing is passed through nappier grass and trees which have been planted nearby to help in purifying the waste water.
The factory is receiving assistance from our partner Coffee Management Services (CMS). The long term goal is to increase coffee production through farmer training, input access, Good Agricultural Practice seminars, and a sustainable farming handbook updated and distributed annually. Together with CMS, we aim to establish a transparent, trust based relationship with the farmer, helping to support a sustained industry growth in Kenya, bringing premium quality to you, and premium prices to the farmers.
Through the pre-financing they receive, farmers are given advances for school fees and farm inputs. The factory manager is re-trained every year by CMS, in addition to field days being held by the minister of agriculture and agrochemical companies that deliver inputs to the farmers. Demonstration plots are planted at the factory to reinforce the best practices taught throughout the year.
We’re sharing this coffee at the start of February, which is great timing since Reuben’s there right now, tasting the latest harvests to pick the coffee we’ll be drinking soon. He’ll be doing the same in Ethiopia, then checking out the African Fine Coffee Conference in Addis Ababa.
What is SL28?
This coffee is the SL28 varietal, which is quite common to see on farms in Kenya. It’s been present in our past Brew Crew coffees from Kenya, though it’s not often that it’s been in a harvest without other varietals also being included too.
The SL stands for Scott Labs, who were commissioned in the 1930s by the Kenyan government to survey and catalog all the different varietals that existed in Kenya to find the ones best suited to commercial farming. In particular, the government was looking for a coffee varietal that showed strong resistance to drought and produced a high yield of coffee cherries.
The SL-28 didn’t turn out to have particularly high yield, but what it does bring is big, complex delicious flavours.
Serious Eats has more on the story of this varietal.
The photo accompanying this coffee is from flickr/datakid23