The Kathakwa factory is situated between the Kii and Rupingazi rivers on the slopes of Mount Kenya in Embu. Varietals are mainly the classical SL 28 and SL 34 and the altitude ranges from 1,600 to 1,800 metres above sea level. The combination of rich volcanic soil at good altitude and the best varietals bring plenty to the cup; complex and blackcurrant nuanced flavour with intense citrus acidity. At the Kathakwa factory the coffee cherry is washed and 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. Gititu Factory has built numerous seepage tanks to treat the water used in processing, to preserve the quality of the local streams. These streams feed the Chania River that flows through Nyeri, less than 2 kilometers downstream.
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.