Kirigu washing station is part of the Gakuyu Farmers’ Cooperative Society and is located near the town of Karatina in Nyeri county. The washing station has around 1000 registered members who deliver cherry there. Cherry that is brought to the Kirigu wet mill is pulped and fermented the same day and after 36 to 48 hours of fermentation the coffee is moved to soaking tanks. Once the coffee has been soaked it’s moved to the shaded, skin drying area where the coffee is pre-dried to wick away the water covering the beans and allow the coffee to rest and dry slowly before a more intense period of sun drying. After 24 hours of shade drying, the coffee is moved to drying beds in full sun where it dries for between 10 and 15 days.
Kirigu was another factory that really jumped out on the cupping table, typifying exactly what we love in great Kenyan coffees – a cup full of juicy blackcurrants with a juicy lemony acidity.
The vast majority of the coffee bought and sold in Kenya is traded through the national auction system, where marketing agents enter cooperatives’ and estates’ coffee and traders come to bid. The main buyers from this auction system are large multinationals, who then offer the lots to importers and roasters. Unfortunately, this has been the only way to purchase Kenyan coffee for a long time and we’ve become frustrated with the lack of transparency, poor service and price volatility. This year we have started buying directly from the auction using a local Kenyan company, who bid on the coffee on our behalf, after we have cupped through auction samples filtered by a local cupper. This was not only a conscious decision to support local, Kenyan businesses, but also to make the supply chain more efficient and save money, in order to pass on those savings to roasters. We hope that these savings help increase the presence of Kenyan coffees on roasters’ menus. This is intended to be the first part of a plan to work on the transparency limitations in Kenya and ultimately the goal is to avoid using the auction system at all, by working directly with farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small estates, and not through a marketing agent.