Gicherori factory lies 1550 metres above sea level on the expansive slopes of Mt. Kenya region which has deep rich red volcanic soils ideal for coffee production. Temperature ranges from 12-25 degrees celcius. The factory was established in and is affiliated to Kibugu FCS. High bimodal rainfall of about 1500 mm per annum is characteristic in the region and this, along with deep, well drained volcanic soils contributes to the production of some excellent coffee.
The factory is receiving assistance an organisation called Coffee Management Services (CMS). Their 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. The objective is to establish a transparent, trust based relationship with the farmer, helping to support a sustained industry growth in Kenya, whilst bringing premium quality to roasters, 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.
The coffee is handpicked and delivered to the wet mill where it is pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature ‘mbuni’s (floaters) using water floatation which means the denser beans will sink and be sent through channels to the fermentation tank. This first stage of fermentation will last for around 24 hours, after which the beans are washed and sent to the secondary fermentation tank for another 12-24 hours. Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for as long as another 24 hours. This soaking process allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean to develop which results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup - it is thought that this process of soaking contributes to the flavour profiles that Kenyan coffees are so famed for. The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where they are laid in a thin layer to allow around 50% of the moisture to be quickly removed. This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 5-10 days of the drying period. The dry parchment coffee is then delivered to a private mill and put into ‘bodegas’ to rest – these are raised cells made of chicken wire which allows the coffee to breathe fully.
Coffee is traditionally sold through the country’s auction system, though recent amendments to the coffee law of Kenya have brought about the introduction of direct trading whereby farmers can by-pass the auction and sell directly to speciality roasters around the world. It is this system we have chosen for our Falcon Specialty offering since we believe it brings about better returns for the smallholder.