Taste profile: Fresh, tart with a rich aftertaste
Cultivation altitude: 1600-2000m
Harvest time: October - December
Species: Batian, Ruiru 11, SL28, SL34
Process: Fermented in water without skin contact
Rust profile: Light
Color profile: 120-130CTn
This plot is cultivated on several small estates in Komothai, Kiambu. The landowners work together in a farming group called "Ngewa-Komothai Farmers." The group consists of about 60 smallholders who process their own crops and whose batches are then blended together like dried parchment at Kahawa Bora Millers in Thika, Kenya.
This practice of blending lots from small estates was an invention of Sucafina Kenya. Especially before the purchase of the Kahawa Bora, our dry mill equipped to dry microlots, many quality-focused smallholders were not producing enough parchment to meet the minimum size requirements of dry mills. This often meant that smallholders ended up selling their parchment to agents who mixed their coffee with many other lots and where they often lost traceability. To help smallholders meet minimum levels, maintain traceability and ensure that mixed lots maintain the quality of each contribution, Sucafina Kenya helped facilitate grower groups that could connect smallholders with others who were nearby and maintained similar quality standards and profiles.
These grower groups are more fluid than cooperatives. Although the exact number of growers involved often changes from year to year, the principle remains the same. Grower groups help facilitate smallholder access to more traceable dry grinding and marketing solutions and often mean better quality and higher prices for their coffee.
Each small estate manages its own harvest and processing. In the case of these producer groups, processing took place on a smaller scale than at the traditional larger factories.
The producers of the Ngewa-Komothai group follow the traditional Kenyan coffee processing method.
After harvest, the cherries are floated to remove underripe and visually inspected to remove any overripe or damaged cherries. The coffee is pulped and then fermented for an average of 24 hours. Parchment is washed in clean water to remove any remaining slime and laid out to dry on raised tables. Depending on weather conditions, the parchment takes about 14 days to dry. Manufacturers were guided to build their own raised tables and supported by a team of Sucafina Kenya field officers during all stages of the production process.
Farmers deliver their dry parchment to Kahawa Bora Miller's dry mill in Thika, Kenya. Here, the mill will do an initial quality analysis to determine quality. The dry mill process cleans and sorts the parchment, hulls and finally separates the lots into different sieve sizes.
Kiambu is located just outside Kenya's capital, Nairobi, but is still famous for agriculture – especially coffee and tea. The county is also home to the Kenyan Coffee Research Foundation.
Kiambu County is also known for its dairy production and is the largest dairy producing county in Kenya. Many of the growers here follow organic fertilization practices and use only cow manure instead of agricultural chemicals on their coffee trees.
Farmers in Kiambu are facing low production due to pests and diseases while having to pay high prices for inputs. In recent years, many have felt the strain and have sold their land to property developers looking to build on the outskirts of Nairobi. Support from partners like Kahawa Bora, who help farmers build long-term profitability, can make a big difference.
Kahawa Bora recognizes the importance of cultivating supportive relationships with both coffee farmers and roasters. The mill provides crucial services to the farmers and cooperatives they work with.
They provide essential 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 real estate sector.
Kahawa Bora also, more generally, lends its own expertise in quality processing to its customers, providing feedback and contributing to their knowledge of processing methods and growing market demand.
Most smallholders usually do not produce enough coffee to fill 50 bags of parchment beans, the smallest quantities will usually process. Before Kahawa Bora was established, mills and marketing agents would have to mix smaller lots from several estates before bringing them to the mill. This meant that coffee from small estates was often anonymized, which could also limit payment for recognition or quality.
Before operating our own mill, our sister company solved this problem by blending batches from about 4-8 producers living in the same area — like with our Slopes of 8 coffee. 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 another option that producers can choose in this direction.
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 batch to the roastery. Thanks to the mill, small property owners can get bigger payouts for their high-quality production and attach their name to their coffee for consumers to see.
For farmers, having their name and life story attached to their coffee, which is then purchased and seen by the end user, can bring many benefits. This means that they can nurture long-term relationships with roasters and increase the value of their product. For roasters, connecting farmers' stories to the coffee they grow can create stronger customer interest in specific coffees, added value and demand and help fund successful long-term relationships with farmers