Don't forget these...
Notes: Cranberry | Golden Delicious Apple | Nectarine
Origin: Kenya (Kirinyaga)
Varietals: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11, Batian
Producers: Baragwi Cooperative Farmers Society
There is a unique character to the PB lots from Kenya, there are always low volumes and they are sought after so we are glad to feature this coffee with its fruity, IPA like qualities.
We often find high performing PB lots that we know will interest our customers, however the PB lots we saw this year were relatively small in volume. So we decided to blend some different peaberries from different factories (washing stations) under the same cooperative. These blends are made from peaberries from high performing outturns from factories which are part of the Baragwi Cooperative Farmers Society.
Each lot consists of coffees from hundreds of smallholders from the area surrounding the washing station (factory). The team at the factory sort the cherries before they go into production. The coffees are traditionally processed with dry fermentation, before being washed and graded in channels, and dried on raised beds. The farmers mainly grow SL28 and SL34, but as with almost all Kenyan cooperative coffees, there can be a mix of everything. Other common cultivars are K7, Ruiru 11 and now also Batian.
The Baragwi Cooperative Society is well known for factories that consistently produce some of the great coffees of Kirinyaga. The cherries are grown by smallholder farmers in areas surrounding their stations.
The soil here is rich volcanic soil and sandy soil, the trees are flowering during February and April for the main harvest which is from October to December.
The smallholders mainly have SL 28 and SL 34. Small amounts of other mixed varietals can occur.
Cherries are hand sorted for unripes and overripes by the farmers before they go in to production. A disc 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 16-24 hours under closed shade. After fermentation the coffees are washed and again graded by density in washing channels and are then soaked under clean water from the Gatomboya stream for 16-18 hours.
Sun dried up to 21 days on African drying beds. Coffees are covered in plastic during midday and at night.
Kenya mainly produces fully washed coffees, and is considered by many as the world’s number one quality producer. There are more than 700,000 coffee farmers (smallholders) representing about 55% of the production. The rest is produced mostly by large farms known as Estates.
Almost all our coffees in Kenya are grown by smallholder farmers, each with 1-2 hectares of land. Many farmers will grow different crops and maybe have as few as 100 coffee trees. The farmers are organised in Cooperative Societies that act as umbrella organisations for the Factories (wet mills), where the smallholders deliver their coffee cherries for processing.
Many of the farmers are surrounded by several wet mills and they are free to choose where they deliver their cherries. Due to the traditional auction system in Kenya, quality is rewarded with higher prices. The better factories will then attract more farmers by producing coffees that earn the highest prices, which they return to the farmers in the form of a second payment. After the cost of marketing and preparation is deducted, this can sometimes be up to 90% of the sales price.
In the mill everything is kept separate for the auction, and it’s a great opportunity to cup through the different grades from the same outturns and consignments. We are usually able to cup extensively at the mill or the lab of the marketing agent to pick out our coffees before they enter the auction catalogue. Whenever we have found a coffee and want to commit, we will have the marketing agent negotiate the price directly with the producers, in our case the Cooperative Society as we normally buy from the smallholders cooperatives.
The Kenyan system is transparent towards the farmers, and everything is more or less separated into small lots and different grades. If you buy coffees directly through the second window (meaning not through the auction), the producers expect to get prices above the average auction prices at present time. In addition, the system is transparent as everybody knows how much is going back to the society after the cost of milling and marketing is deducted.
In fact, many of the more serious societies and factories are competing, getting cherries in from the same areas, and are putting effort and pride into paying the highest returns to their farmers. Some of the coops we work with have been able to pay up to 90% back to the farmers.
This is done at the wet mills or at collection centres. When the farmers arrive at the place for delivery they would normally have to empty their bags on a covered section of the floor to sort out unripe, overripe and CBD infected cherries.
When they start the pulper the cherries are pulled by gravity down into the machine. They normally use disc pulpers such as old three disc Agaarde or similar brands. The parchment flows from the discs with water allowing the beans to be separated by density. The densest beans will sink and are pumped straight through a channel to the fermentation tank as P1 (parchment 1) which is what we usually buy.
After pulping, the coffees are dry fermented (water is drained off) in painted concrete tanks. Normally they are fermented for 18-24 hours. Many factories do intermediate washing every 6 – 8 hours, meaning they add water, stir up the parchment and drain it again.
Washing and soaking
When fermentation is completed and the mucilage is dissolved the parchment gets washed in washing channels and graded again by density. The lighter beans will float off and the remaining dense parchment will normally be soaked in clean water for up to 24 hours.
After soaking, the coffees are dried on hessian mesh mats for up to one day, then moved to the traditional drying tables. The coffee is normally dried on a surface of jute cloth or shade net layered over the table’s wire mesh.
The drying time varies between 12 and 20 days depending on weather and rainfall.
Sourcing, milling and export
The dry mills in Kenya are highly professional and efficient. The coffees are graded according to the following system:
- E (Elephant beans) = screen 19 and up
- AA = 17/18
- AB = 16/17
- PB = Peaberries.