Kenya - Kiangombe AA
With nearly 700,000 coffee producers, roughly 70% of which are smallholder producers, Kenya shines as a unique coffee-producing country in East Africa. Within the Kirinyaga County along the slopes of Mt. Kenya is the Kiangombe Factory, or wet mill. The Kirinyaga County was named after Mt. Kenya, translating to mean ‘crest of whiteness,’ referring to the towering snow-capped peak overlooking the Factory. 600 smallholders contribute coffee cherries to this mill and belong to the Kabare Cooperative Society.
The Kiangombe Factory was established in 1998 and is one of many working with the Kabare Cooperative Society. Kiangombe is actually a local kikuyu word meaning ‘a place full of cows,’ referring to the plethora of cattle being raised by households in this area.
With varying altitudes between 1,750 to 1,800 meters above sea level, this region is defined by its bright red soils, full of rich nutrients for coffee trees. The high altitudes allow for ideal temperatures and rainfall for the slow maturation of coffee cherries. Smallholders in Kirinyaga grow coffee on small plots of land and pick the cherries during harvest to deliver to the mill. Harvest occurs between October and December, with a smaller or ‘fly’ harvest, taking place between April and July.
After cherries are carefully handpicked by the producers during the harvest, they are carried to the wet mill to be sorted. They are spread out on a patio to ensure all underripe cherries and foreign material are removed before continuing. Pulping occurs next, which involves the cherries first being dumped into a hopper where water from the local River Mukengeria is utilized to clean the cherries and funneled to the pulping house. Here, two abrasive slabs remove the exterior fruit from the coffee. Next, the beans are rushed in channels of water, simultaneously removing floating, low quality coffee. Dense beans drop into a tank of water to ferment over night. After the exterior mucilage has broken down enough, the coffee is washed vigorously in channels, with frequent stirs from a wooden paddle.
Finally, the coffee is dispersed evenly on raised beds to dry in the open sun under careful supervision. If the sun is too harsh or rain is in the forecast, the coffee is covered and protected. As soon as the moisture content reaches 10-12%, the coffee is bagged and delivered to the dry mill to be hulled and prepared for export.