Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Sage
alt: 1600 - 1700 MASL
producer: Kibirigwi Farmers Co-operative Society
region: Kirinyaga County
varietal: SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11
The Thunguri Coffee Factory is a coffee washing station located in the Kirinyaga County in Kenya’s Central Province, 115 km from Nairobi and 5 km from Karatina town. Thunguri was established in 1962 and rests on eight acres of nutrient rich land in the fertile foothills of Mt. Kenya and Aberdare ranges National park. It has 1,095 active contributing farmers who are members of the Kibirgwi Cooperative Society. Each member has on average around half a hectare of land for coffee growing alongside macadamia, beans, banana, tea and maize. The area has deep, well-drained and fertile red volcanic soil at altitudes of between 1,600 and 1700 meters above sea level with 953mm of rainfall annually. Thunguri receives assistance from Coffee Management Services (CMS), to work directly with cooperatives and members to help them improve their productivity and quality, through training and implementation of best agricultural practices. CMS also offers interest-free advances before the season, to help sustain their farms and contribute to their school fee payments. Ecological Management For conservation water is re-circulated during processing and disposed of responsibly in numerous soak pits away from water sources. Coffee Pulp from the factory is collected by farmers for use as mulch on their farms to improve the soil structure and organic matter content. This region is abound with rich wildlife due to its proximity to forests and members are educated on the importance of preserving these species. Numerous wetlands and rivers are found here and are preserved in their natural state. Indigenous plant species like Mugumo, elm trees are found in this region.
During the harvest, farmers selectively handpick the ripest, deep red cherries, which are then delivered to the factory on the same day. All farms delivering to the wet mill are located more or less within a 5 mile radius and delivered to the mill via a variety of methods – including motorbike, wheelbarrow and bicycle! Cherries are hand sorted prior to pulping, with damaged and under ripe cherries being separated out from the red, ripe lots, and are further defined into lots according to quality. After de-pulping, the coffee is fermented for 24–48 hours, then the coffee is moved back and forth through water channels eventually reaching washing tanks, where the softened mucilage is washed away. The best micro-lots are sometimes sent to holding takes where they are submerged underwater for an additional 24 hours- oftentimes referred to as a “Double Soak.” The coffee is then washed in clean, freshwater from the nearby river to remove all traces of mucilage before being delivered to sun dry on raised beds. While it is drying, parchment coffee is sorted again to remove any discolored or damaged beans. When it achieves optimal humidity, the parchment is then transported to Highland coffee mill for dry milling and grading before it is transported to the warehouse for storage and further process.
Due to the intense interest in Kenya’s coffees in 1922, the British colonies hired Scot Laboratories to undertake a series of selections and tests on Kenyan coffee varietals in order to determine which had the greatest potential for success. They looked for success both in terms of quality and cultivation. Scientists identified 42 trees of various origins that were selected for yield, quality, resistance to drought, pest and diseases giving them each a number with “SL” for classification. Eventually in 1930 the classification lead to the development of two super strains of coffee. The SL 28 and the SL34 today make up nearly 90% of all coffee in Kenya. In response to the bad bout from 1968 of coffee berry disease and leaf rust the Ruiru 11 Hybrid Variety was developed and was made commercially available in 1986.