Kenya – Kiamabara

About 150km (93 miles) north of Nairobi is a small town called Nyeri.  If you try and drive the route it might take three to four hours.  It seemed like every road in the country was under construction last October when I was there.  Like much of East Africa, most Kenyan farmers only own an acre or two. This distribution of ownership makes quality coffee production difficult in some countries, but in Kenya systems are in place that actually support some of the small famers and coffee co-ops.

Farms less than 6 acres are not allowed to process their own coffee. They must deliver the coffee to a wet mill where it will be managed with professional care and attention. This single step secures coffee quality starting at the cherry. Immediately after de-pulping, the coffee sorting begins with washing channels, and then with size sorting.  As soon as the coffee hits the drying beds, workers hand pick out any defective looking parchment coffee. At this stage, the coffee is called P1, P2, P3, and P4. P1 is the best quality and P4 is the lower quality. (Coffees I buy come from P1 and P2). Once the coffee is fully dried the coffee is rested in specific resting areas that control the airflow over the coffee.  Often times the best coffees from these small mills might only be 15 bags weighing 60kgs or 132lbs.

The auction system allows those 15 bags to be sold independently without blending.  Each lot is auctioned individually to a host of buyers. The buyer who bids the most by pushing their red button wins. As I saw in Kenya some farmers set their base price above the auction price and hence actually can reject the auction price offer, which is yet another reason Kenyan coffees can be very expensive.

This Lot comes from the Mugaga Farmers Society and it processed at the Kiambara mill. As I said above sometimes farmers own small plots of land. The average number of coffee trees per family is only 200. Kiamabara is not going to be found on any maps but I can tell you where it is. Between Nyeri and Mt. Kenya National Park you will find 910 members that deliver their coffee cherries for good prices.

When buying Kenyan coffees I look for areas that have heirloom varieties planted. The trees that give us this beautiful coffee are SL-28 and SL-34 varieties.

In the cup, this coffee is crisp, clean and vibrant with notes of raspberry with a tart lemony brightness. The silky smooth body and deep chocolate notes round out a beautiful and lively cup.

Byron Holcomb

Coffee Director – Dallis Bros Coffee