Kiamutuira Coffee Factory is located in Kirinyaga County. The factory was built in 1996 to process cherry from the neighbouring farms. Its membership currently stands at 499 of which 374 are active farmers while 125 are inactive farmers. Kiamutuira Coffee factory is run by Mwai N Riko, the factory manager. The number of casual staff varies from year to year depending on crop harvest. Kiamuitira is a member of the Mutira Farmers Cooperative Society and is located in Kirinyaga county on the expansive slopes of Mount Kenya. The Cooperative Society was formed in 1951. Secretary Manager Mr Boniface Muchiri oversees the day to day operations. Member factories include Mutitu, Ngorano, Mugaya, Karii, Kiangundu, Kiamuitira, and with the cooperative head quarters and offices sitting at Kagumo factories. The farmer members of the Society are trained in Good Agricultural Practices, and have undergone certifications with Utz, 4C, Rainforest Alliance and FairTrade. The factory is receiving assistance from an organisation called Coffee Management Services (CMS). Their long term goal is to increase coffee production through farmer training, ready access to inputs, Good Agricultural Practice seminars, and providing the most current printed materials on sustainable farming.
CMS strongly believe in establishing a transparent, trust based relationship with smallholder farmers, helping to support sustained industry growth throughout the country, and continuing to elevate the standards of quality coffee produced in Kenya. 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 by the smallholder members and delivered to the Kiamuitira Factory 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.