Kiangundo Factory (the name for wet mills in Kenya) receives cherry from 690+ producers who farm on the land surrounding the factory in Karatina, Nyeri the land surrounding the factory in Karatina, Nyeri County. Kiangundo Factory is one of 4 factories managed by Kiama Cooperative Farmers' Society ' Kiama, founded in 2004, represents over 3,000 farmers in Nyeri.
The factory receives support from Sucafina our green merchant in Kenya. Farmers receive regular training in Good Agricultural Practices, including fertiliser application, pruning guidance and renovation advice, which help them keep their small farms in optimal condition.
Nyeri County is one Kenya's most famous growing regions. Much of the coffee here is cultivated in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains, which have warm days and cool nights and a plentiful water supply.
The name Nyeri is derived from the Masaai word nyiro, meaning red, after the red volcanic soil in the area. The name was adapted by white settler farmers to Nyeri. Most farmers in the area today grow tea and coffee as cash crops. Coffee varieties in the region are usually a mix between SL 28, SL 34 (roughly 80%) Batian and Ruiri 11.
Smallholders handpick ripe cherry and deliver it to the factory that day. At intake, cherry is meticulously sorted. All sorting is overseen by the cherry clerk, who ensures that only ripe, undamaged cherry Is received.
Once sorted, cherry is pulped on the factory’s disc pulper and then density sorted. Pulped cherry is dry fermented for 16 to 24 hours. Skilled staff oversee fermentation, checking regularly to ensure fermented is halted at just the right moment. After fermentation, cherry is sent through washing and grading channels.
Parchment is soaked for 24 hours and then placed on raised drying beds. Staff sort drying parchment to remove any remaining defective beans and turn parchment constantly to promote even drying.
Drying typically takes between 1 and 3 weeks. Parchment is milled at Kahawa Bora Dry Mill. Kenyan coffees are classified by size. AB beans are those that are between screen size 15 and 18 meaning that beans are between 6 and 7 millimeters in size.
Kahawa Bora recognises the importance of cultivating supportive relationships with coffee farmers and roasters, alike. The mill provides crucial services for the farmers and cooperatives with whom they work.
They provide key agricultural extension work, helping farmers improve the health of their crops, increase productivity and ensure the best possible quality. They also support innovation in the small estate sector.
Kahawa Bora also, more generally, lends their own expertise in quality processing to their clients, providing feedback and contributing to their knowledge of processing methods and evolving market demand.
Most small estate owners do not typically produce enough coffee to fill 50 bags with parchment beans, the smallest quantity mills will generally process. Before Kahawa Bora was established, mills and marketing agents would have to blend smaller lots from multiple estates before bringing it to the mill.
This meant that coffee from small estates was often anonymised, which could also limit payment for recognition or quality. Before operating their own mill, our sister company solved this problem by blending lots from approximately 4-8 producers living in the same area —such as with our Slopes of 8 coffees. This method also allowed producers to maintain the identity behind their coffee and gave them collective control over price expectations.
Kahawa Bora’s microlot program is one more option that producers can choose along this vein. With the purchase of the Kahawa Bora mill, it is now even easier to keep traceability intact all the way from the individual farmer who grew the lot through to the roaster. Thanks to the mill, small estate owners can receive larger payouts for to their high quality production and link their name to their coffees for consumers to see.
For farmers, having their name and life story connected to their coffee, which is then purchased and seen by the end user, can bring many benefits. It means that they can nurture long-term relationships with roasters and increase the value of their product.
For roasters, connecting farmers’ stories to the coffees they grew can create a stronger customer interest for specific coffees, added value and demand, and help finance successful long-term relationships with farmers
Though coffee growing had a relatively late start in Kenya, the industry has gained and maintained a impressive reputation. Since the start of production, Kenyan coffee has been recognised for its high quality, meticulous preparation and exquisite flavours.
Our in-country sister company, Sucafina Kenya, works with farmers across the country to ensure these exceptional coffees gain the accolades they deserve.
Today, more than 600,000 smallholders farming fewer than 5 acres compose 99% of the coffee farming population of Kenya. Their farms cover more than 75% of total coffee growing land and produce nearly 70% of the country’s coffee. These farmers are organized into hundreds of Farmer Cooperative Societies (FCS), all of which operate at least one factory. The remainder of annual production is grown and processed by small, medium and large land estates. Most of the larger estates have their own washing stations.
Most Kenyan coffees are fully washed and dried on raised beds. The country still upholds its reputation for high quality and attention to detail at its many washing stations. The best factories employ stringent sorting practices at cherry intake, and many of them have had the same management staff in place for years.