The Kii Coffee Factory is operated by the Rung'eto Farmers Cooperative Society, and comprises cherry contributions from just over 1,200 members, each owning an average of about a third of a hectare of land, planted with around four hundred coffee trees.
Coffee cherry being transported to Kii Wetmill
The farmers carefully hand-picked the coffee cherry from their trees, which is delivered to the Kii wetmill on the same day as it's picked. There the cherry is sorted prior to the depulping. The ripe cherry is wet-processed using clean river water before careful fermentation and washing. The parchment is then delivered to the dry mill for secondary processing.
The annual rainfall in this region is 1500–1900 mm per year. The rains are in two seasons: one short season and another long season. Their main crop receives substantial rains that come between April and June; with more rains between October and November supporting a secondary crop.
Coffee cherry at Kii Wetmill
Farmers in Rung’eto planted their first coffee trees in 1953. The co-op has three wet mills: Kii, Karimikui, and Kiangoi. The co-op is located within Ngariama location, Gichugu division, Kirinyaga East district on the Southern slopes of Mount Kenya.
The co-op is managed by an elected board of seven members, two elected from each factory catchment. Each member represents an electoral zone in the larger Rung’eto sublocation. Currently the co-op has 25 permanent staff members who are headed by a secretary manager. The secretary manager oversees the day-to-day running of the co-op under the supervision of the board.
The three wet mills in the co-op have a combined membership of 2,858 active farmers.
Coffee sorting at Kii Wetmill
The co-op is currently producing an average of 1,470,258 kg cherry. The co-op has partnered with its marketing agent, Sustainable Management Services Limited, to implement a coffee-quality improvement project, with the aim of increasing the yields to over 3,000,000 kg.
You might have noticed the “AA” in the name of this coffee.
In the African and Indian coffee trade, AA and AB refer to the size of the bean. AA coffee beans, such as the ones in this delivery, are over 7.2mm in size and generally fetch the highest price at auction in Kenya. Beans graded AB are slightly smaller, at least 6.8mm in size and will get the second highest price.
Beans are sorted using numbered screens with holes of a uniform size, so farmers, exporters and roasters can all use the same terminology to describe things. AA is screen 17 and 18; whereas AB beans are screen 15 and 16. Tom at Sweet Maria’s in Oakland has a blog post about screen tests with photos of how a simple screen setup works.
Sign at Kii Wetmill