Kenya is one of the most respected specialty coffee producing origins, and each year we look forward to finding a great example of Kenyan coffee for our specialty estate drinkers. Most producers are smaller farmers, with less than 3 acres. By law, any Kenyan farmer with less than 5 acres must be organised into a cooperative, which is why most of the time Kenyan coffee is sold traceable to the Factory (wet mill) – which services the surrounding farmers.
A sample of the coffee from the mill is taken by a market agent, who takes the coffee to auction. This agent isn’t allowed to own coffee, as it is illegal to sell coffee to a middle man in Kenya. Instead, they aim to get the best price for the coffee through the auction system, and then earn a small commission for their work. There are also opportunities for importers to purchase coffee outside of the auction system, with prices being negotiated based on recent market value.
Mutitu factory is located in the Nyeri county, in the central highlands of Kenya. It has been running since 1957, which makes it one of the oldest wet mills in the country, and services around 750 farmers. The factory is on the eastern slopes of the Aberdare mountain range, with coffee being grown at altitudes ranging from 1600-1800 metres above sea level.
Bordering Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, it’s quite interesting to note the history of coffee growing in Kenya. It was 300 years after coffee’s first commercial cultivation that it made its way to the country. The first varieties were brought in by Scottish and French Missionaries, with the French bringing bourbon, and the Scottish bringing strains of the Mocha variety. These varieties had circumnavigated the globe, before making their way back to Africa and into Kenya.
In 1922, a company called Scott Agricultural Laboratories was established by the colonial British government to conduct research and provide advice to farmers. Many of the well known Kenyan varieties were identified by this company, and the results of their work are evident today. Many Kenyan varietals are identified as “SL-xx” – the SL standing for Scots Laboratories, and the xx being the unique identifier for the variety. They identified a number of quality varieties, with SL-28 and 34 being among them. The other varieties from Mutitu include Batian and Ruiru 11, bringing more resistance to disease than the SL varieties.
We have roasted this month’s specialty estate for filter coffee, highlighting everything that makes Kenyan coffee delicious. Whether you use an Aeropress, V60, or even the humble plunger – this coffee will shine with its juicy, sweet body. Espresso drinkers – check out our new seasonal blend El Coro as a replacement option this month.
Grab a bag of our Specialty Estate May: Peru – El Huyacan La Palma Coffee!