Region: Mukurwe-ini Division, Nyeri County
Farm/Co-operative: Mutwewathi Factory
Altitude: 1680m above sea level
Varietal: SL-28, SL-34, Ruiru 11, Batian
Processing Method: Washed, Sun Dried
Supplier: Cafe Imports
Tasting notes: Strong crisp citric acidity and heavy with rich chocolate, lemon-lime and clove.
Mutwe-wathi Factory is a washing station that services 1,050 farmers of the Gikaru CGCS. It was biult in 1965 and broke off from the larger Mukurwe-ini FCS in 2000 to join Gikaru which later became the New Gikaru F.C.S. The farmers (200 of whom are female) have an average of 200 trees per farm, and they grow the common Kenyan varieties of SL-28, SL-34, Batian, and Riuru 11. The farms in this area have red volcanic soil and the farmers grow tea, corn, and bananas in addition to coffee.
The factory uses one depulper and has four soaking pits for recycling and purifying wash water, which is provided by the Gura River. It is Fairtrade certified, and the farmers receive advance payment for school fees and for necessary farm inputs such as fertilizers. The factory manager also provides annual trainings for the members.
In our opinion, Kenya has one of the most interesting and complicated histories with coffee: Despite sharing a border with the “birthplace of coffee,” Ethiopia, Kenya was one of the latest places planted in coffee, nearly 300 years after the plant was first cultivated for sale. In fact, the varieties that were brought to Kenya had circumnavigated the globe before they found their way back to the African continent, mutating in various climates to create a profile that, once adapted to the rich soil around Mt. Kenya, resulted in the singular profiles that this country has to offer.
The first plants were brought to the country by Scottish and French missionaries, the latter contributing what would be known as French Mission Bourbon, transplanted from the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) to Tanzania and Kenya in an attempt to finance their efforts on the ground. The Scottish, meanwhile, brought strains from Mocha, the different varieties contributing to the dynamic quality of the coffees in the country even to this day.
Established as a British colony specifically for its moneymaking potential, Kenya became a coffee powerhouse as a way for the empire to control both the tea (already a Kenyan staple crop) and coffee markets worldwide. By the 1920s, as Europe demanded more and more coffee, the cash crop became a major Kenyan export, and in the 1930s the auction system was developed, ostensibly to democratize the market for farmers. After Kenya achieved independence from Britain in the 1960s, coffee took on a greater importance to small landholders, many of whom were given coffee farms in the redistribution of private property from large colonial and government-owned plantations.
In the 2000s, approximately 85% of the coffee farms in Kenya are owned by natives to the country, though European influence is still evident in larger estates. Today, the majority of Kenyan farmers tend small plots, growing as few as 150 coffee trees trees: They bring cherry to centrally located mills, where their coffees are weighed, sorted, and combined to create lots large enough to process and export. There are also privately owned estates, though fewer than during colonial days: The average estate grows around 10,000 coffee trees.