Orders are shipped every Monday, Thursday and Friday. Blends are roasted on Mondays and Fridays each week whilst single origins are roasted only on Wednesdays at this stage (due to batch size requirements).
Aroresa (pronounced “A-ro-ress-a”) originates from the Bensa ‘woreda’ (administrative district) in the Sidama Zone in Ethiopia’s Southern Oromia State. It is named after the ‘kebele’ (local village) of Aroresa.
The washing station sits at 1,856m above sea level, and is privately owned by Wochesa Achiso, who buys cherries from local families - each cultivate small plots of land (averaging 2 – 5 hectares in size), located 1,900–2,000 metres above sea level.
Wochesa Achiso works collaboratively with Testi Coffee, who supports the washing station with quality control and also supports the washing station to market and sell their coffee. Testi Coffee is a family owned business that was founded ten years ago by Mr Faysel Yonis. The company is committed to maximising the potential of Ethiopian coffee and enriching the lives of the communities that are connected to it.
Testi Coffee’s business model is basically to buy coffee cherry from their ‘out-growers’ (an Ethiopian term for a small-holder who contributes to a particular washing station), while working with them to improve the quality of the coffee, and help develop the social conditions in the communities for the out-growers.
The team at Testi Coffee are very proud of the quality of coffee that they produce. In 2018, they launched a quality improvement program called the Premium Cherry Selection (PCS). Through this program, they pay a premium to producers who pick only the very ripest cherries from their farms. These coffees represent the very best that they have to offer, and this lot from Aroresa is a Premium Cherry Selection lot.
Mr Faysel, the owner of Testi, strongly believes that increased rewards for the out-growers should be shared by their entire community as a whole, rather than just delivering more financial benefits to the out growers themselves. To this end, he has launched an initiative called Project Direct, which focuses on directly helping coffee farmers, their families, and surrounding communities in tangible and positive ways. The project has helped to build schools and get communities access to clean water. Their goal in the future is to get support from their importing and roasting partners to make this initiative more fruitful.
This coffee is a mix of local varieties, including native coffees from forest origin that are collectively known as ‘Ethiopian Heirloom’. All of these varieties are Arabica and most originate from a Typica predecessor, but with wild mutations that result in some exceptional and unique flavour profiles. The coffee has been processed as a washed lot using fresh water from the nearby river Hamile. It is classified as Grade 1, indicating that a lot of effort has been put into the selection and grading during processing.
Each day, carefully hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the Aroresa mill and are meticulously sorted by hand and a floatation tank prior to processing to remove unripe, overripe, or damaged fruit, in order to enhance the quality and sweetness of the cup. The coffee cherries are then pulped using a disk pulper to remove the fruit and skin, and then graded by weight; heavier beans are superior quality and deliver a sweeter cup. After grading, the parchment-covered coffee is soaked in tanks of clean water for 24–48 hours to remove the mucilage (sticky covering) by allowing it to ferment and detach from the coffee. The coffee is then re-washed and graded again by density in washing channels and soaked in clean water for 12–24 hours.
The coffee is then dried for around 12 days on African drying beds, firstly under cover (for up to a day) and then subsequently in the sun. Whilst drying, the coffee is carefully hand-sorted, and any defects are removed. It is also turned regularly to ensure that it dries evenly and consistently. At midday, the coffee is covered to protect it from full sun. It is also covered overnight to prevent damage from morning dew. Once the coffee is dry it is rested in parchment until it is ready for export. Aroresa is a fine example of the distinctive and unique nature of coffee produced in this region.
Fazenda Progresso (Natural) - Brazil
Toasted nuts, butterscotch and marmalade.
Country: Brazil State: Bahia Region: Chapada Diamantina Town: Mucugê Altitude: 1,150m above sea level Variety: Catuaí Processing: Natural Owner: Borré Family Awards: Cup of Excellence 2015 #15 Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants ---
Fazenda Progresso is a beautiful farm nestled in the Chapada Diamatina mountain range in the heart of Bahia. The farm is surrounded by the Chapada Diamantina National Park, known for its mountainous cliff formations (Chapada) and 19th century diamond mining (Diamantina).
The history of Fazenda Progresso dates back to 1984, when the Borré family migrated from southern Brazil to the northeast and purchased some land in the municipality of Ibicoara, near the town of Mucugê. In the early years, the family tried growing crops such as soybeans, wheat, and English potatoes. The potatoes turned out to be an incredibly successful crop, stimulating investments and making the family one of the largest producers of potatoes in Brazil!
In 2005, the Borré family sought to diversify the activities on their land, and so began to focus on coffee. As MCM learnt when they first met the family, when they commit to a new project, they seek to do it to the very highest possible standard. Their work with coffee is no exception. The family’s commitment to producing exceptional coffee has been unwavering over the last decade. They have sought advice from some of the most respected professionals in the field, including Silvio Leite, founder of the Cup of Excellence and president of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, with 30 years’ experience in coffee grading, tasting, and quality control.
The Borré family has invested heavily to ensure that they have the very best infrastructure to process coffee, which allows them to control quality every step of the way, from picking right through to export. They have a dedicated quality control lab with a talented cupping team headed up by Ednaldo Nascimento (AKA ‘Gandula’—nicknamed after the boy that replaces the ball during a soccer match)! Gandula and his team assess every lot of coffee produced and ensure that the quality is the very best it can be.
The Borrés are very hands-on in their approach to managing the farm. They are extremely professional in the way they conduct their business, and they take great care to create an excellent work environment for their staff. Throughout the year, there are around 200 permanent staff members on the farm, and this number grows to 650 during the harvest. Many of these harvest workers return every year, and all are provided with daily bus transportation and food.
In total, 700 hectares of the property are dedicated to coffee; this land is divided up into different plots, which are processed separately. Over time, the family has worked out the optimum way to plant coffee trees in order to maximise productivity, with 50 centimetres between each tree and three metres between each row of trees.This year we have purchased coffee from four different plots on the property; each is extremely unique in its profile, and all are exceptional!
Historically all of the coffee at Fazenda Progresso was processed using the pulped natural method, but in 2017 Fabiano started to experiment with naturally processed coffee, and the results have been exceptional. This lot is a natural processed lot from the farm, which was carefully hand-picked by a specially trained team in August. The cherries were selected at the peak of ripeness, and then carefully dried on meticulously clean patios in the sun, and turned regularly to ensure they dried evenly. When the cherry was almost purple, the dried fruit skin and parchment was taken off with a mechanical huller at Progresso’s mill. The coffee was then rested until ready for export.
The Borré family business has always been managed and directed by family members and is now in its third generation of operation. Fabiano Borré looks after everything to do with the coffee side of the business. He is young, focused and very motivated to produce the very best coffee he can. You can read an interview with Fabiano Borré here.
“Working with something so sensitive, so changeable, involving the most varied areas of knowledge and then get to share all this with incredible people… it’s amazing. That’s why I choose coffee!” – Fabiano Borré
The Borré family takes great care to protect and preserve the ecological health of their area. Water is conserved and meteorological stations are positioned throughout the farm to optimise irrigation and ensure the trees get the right amount of water. Cascara pulp from processing is composted (along with potato wastage, which is very high in potassium and great for coffee trees!) and used to fertilise trees throughout the plantation.
In 2015, for the first time, the Borré family entered their coffee into the Cup of Excellence competition. It placed 15th—a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work, resources, and focus that have been put into producing exceptional coffee.
This wonderful coffee with intense fruit notes is produced by Upstream's partners GnF at their Konga Sede Washing Station, in the heart of Yirgacheffe - just a couple of miles away from the town that gave name to this world-renown coffee. The station is managed by Yirgalen Melid, who has been working there for almost 20 years. A producer himself, he coordinates the arrivals of coffee during the harvest, and the processing of the beans according to the strict quality guidelines.
More than 400 farmers, known as 'outgrowers' deliver their fresh coffee cherries the same day they are picked from the field to the station, whether for washed or natural processing. The farms, small in size, are situated at an elevation between 1,750 and 2,200 meters above sea level. The total annual production of the washing station is around 150 tonnes. The most common variety of tree is known locally as 'Weleso Gurume'.
Growers are paid the first installment on the spot, then many times they stick around to overlook how their beans are processed. During the offseason they are paid a balance previously agreed upon. This is not an imposed condition but rather a mutual arrangement with the farmers to help them plan their domestic finances. They do not have to go through the ECX but the outturn quality test is of the same standard. The additional transport expenses are saved by the outgrowers adding to their bottom line revenue.
GnF is a family producer and they have 4 washing stations. Upstream have been working with them for 3 years and one of the business patterns (Nithya) visited them last year. They have been focussing on consistently high quality and standardising the processing. Upstream encourage roasters to support respective producer programs directly with financial assistance - 'Upstream Endeavour’ is a program wherein they complete the cycle by giving back to the deserving parties in the supply chain.
Google Maps location of the station can be visited here.
This coffee is named after the Great Colombian Massif, or Macizo Colombiano, a vast mountainous area that covers part of the states of Cauca, Tolima and Huila in the West of Colombia. Part of the Andean mountain range, this area is covered in snowcapped mountains, with elevations as high as 3,500m above sea level. The region is Colombia’s richest water source and many of the country’s largest rivers are born here, including the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers. Abundant, clean water and rich volcanic soil makes this area ideal for extensive agriculture, and it is known in particular for exceptional coffee production.
This lot of Macizo Colombiano was blended from coffees produced smallholder farmers from the area around the towns of Inza, in Cauca State, and Ibagué, in Tolima State. The coffees were selected by cup quality and profile to make up this special lot.
The farms that contributed to this lot are very small – on average just 1.5 hectares in size – and are located between 1800-2000m above sea level in the high hills and valleys of the Macizo Colombiano. Coffee producers in these areas farm traditionally, and grow a mix of Colombia, Castillo and Caturra varieties. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used.
The word ‘Tolima’ comes from the local indigenous language and means a “river of snow or cloud”. The region sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that provide a range of microclimates well-suited to high-quality coffee production. Coffee is the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
The most well-known regions in Tolima for specialty coffee are Planadas and Chaparral in the south. This coffee comes from the areas surrounding Ibagué, which is further north in the state. The city is also known as the “Ciudad del Abanico” or the “city of the folding fan”, because when you look at it from the sky the rivers running from the mountains split up the crops of rice and cotton, and it looks like a beautiful handmade folding fan.
About Inza & Cauca
The municipality of Inzá is located in the corner of the Department of Cauca, bordering with Tolima and Huila and looking out to the west over the Pacific Ocean. This region has excellent growing conditions for growing high-quality coffee, with high altitudes and rich volcanic soil. The plateau also has a very stable climate year-round, thanks to its proximity to the equator and the surrounding mountains, which protect the coffee against the humidity of the Pacific and the trade winds from the South. This region is an important source of water and wildlife, in addition to being prime coffee growing land.
Coffee from both Cauca and Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffee is sourced by MCM's export partners, Pergamino, who work with small producers in five different regions of Colombia; Cauca, Tolima, Nariño, Antioquia and Huila. Pergamino have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but that have historically not had access to specialty buyers. Through their Allied Producer program, Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout the regions they work in and to connect small producers to buyers who pay quality-based premiums, thereby improving the livelihood of the producing communities.
During harvest the farmers deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s local warehouses every 2-3 weeks. Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment.
The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the local QC team the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.
The team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots at their QC lab in Medellin, to select the coffees that are blended together into this special regional lot. The coffees included were chosen for their outstanding cup profile and distinct regional characteristics.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffees in this lot were selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. They were processed using the washed method at each farm’s ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill).
The coffee was pulped using a small manual or electric pulper, and then placed into a fermentation tank, where it was fermented for around 48 hours (depending on the weather and the farms location) and then washed using clean water from nearby rivers and streams.
It was then carefully dried (over 10–18 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse are constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
Read more about MCM's Colombian export partner Pergamino here.
We have been roasting coffee from Long Miles since 2014 - when our head roaster Adam visited them in person in the beautiful hills of Burundi. We had heard amazing things about what they were accomplishing in terms of both quality and the prices paid to the growers - it was all true - and then some. They are truly re-inventing both what Burundian coffee can be and what a transparent, premium based and sustainable coffee chain means. From Adam, in regards to one of his career highlights:
"It’d be from my first origin trip, walking down a dirt road into the Long Miles Coffee Project Bukeye washing station in the hills of Kayanza, Burundi. It was the end of a long day and the air was thick with the aromas of cherry pulp, fermentation and coffee flowers. Unforgettable."
This coffee is grown and produced by farming families in the northern province of Ngozi, a stone’s throw away from the Rwandan border. The Nyamuswaga river runs through these neighbouring coffee hills, turning much of the surrounding landscape into a lush wetland. Bananas, maize, potatoes, beans, cassava, sweet potatoes and peas can be found growing alongside coffee, wrapping the hill in every imaginable shade of green. More than 1533 farming families from 20 nearby coffee hills deliver their cherries to this collection point. While women make up only 32% of the producers who contributed to this coffee, they are without question the thread that holds coffee farming communities together in Burundi. They work incredibly hard- hand tilling the soil, growing, harvesting, sorting and hauling multiple crops- not just coffee. They often do it with a baby on their back or a child at their hip.
A farmer might walk as far as 8km on narrow dirt footpaths carrying coffee cherries on their head to reach this collection point. There are a pre-selection area and floating station at this collection point where their coffee cherries are taken to be sorted and floated once again. Any underdeveloped, low- density or insect-damaged cherries will float to the top and are easily skimmed off. The cherries that rise to the top ('floats') are bought at a lower price, their quality immediately separated from the others then processed and sold as a lower grade coffee. After each farmer’s cherries have been selected, weighed and their contribution recorded, this coffee is laid out in a single layer on traditional African raised beds to dry in its whole fruit. The cherries are then meticulously hand-sorted for colour, ripeness and insect damage by a team of pickers. The drying cherries are rotated continuously throughout the day and covered when the sun’s rays are too intense when it’s raining and overnight. Commitment to the perfect moisture level (10-11%) means coffee spends 20-30 days slow drying, depending on the weather conditions, soaking up as much of the hot East African sun as possible. Bonuses are paid to farming families in the form of a second payment at the end of the export year- before the next harvest season opens.
"We are a small American family living in Burundi, which is smack dab in the heart of east Africa. We are passionate about producing amazing coffee and caring for the well-being of the coffee farmers who grow it. We weren’t always coffee producers. First, we were a family with a dream.
Our dream was that one day we could facilitate direct and meaningful relationships between coffee roasters and coffee growers by producing great coffee and telling the story of the farmers who grow it. If we could do that, then the local farming community would thrive and the world would gain the gift of great Burundi coffee.
After some time sourcing coffee in Burundi, we realized that the only way we could see our dream come true was to build a washing station. That way, we could control the coffee quality and the price the farmers were given for their coffee. In our first season, with the help of our friends and devoted blog readers, we sold all the coffee before it even hit the drying tables. This overwhelming support allowed us to pay our farmers months before any other washing station in our area, and we quickly became established as a vital part of the community.
Living as a family in this part of Africa isn’t always easy, and sometimes we share the raw and honest truth about what that’s like on our blog. We rattle on about our Faith, raising boys in Africa and the expat life. We also share the stories of our coffee farmers, what it’s like at our washing stations and how we brew our morning coffee. So, if you want the real deal about life, hit that blog button.
If you are a roaster and would like to contact us about building a relationship with our family that works for both you and our farmers, please hit the contact button. If you are a lover of coffee or Africa or travel or adventure and you just want to connect with us, we’d love to hear from you too.
'Murakoze cane' (thank you very much),
The Carlson Family (Ben, Kristy, Myles, Neo, and Ariana)"
The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for four generations and more than 100 years. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows some of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area, bounded by three volcanoes: Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).
Finca Santa Clara is ninety hectares in size and is located on the fertile southern slopes of the Volcán de Agua, in the Antigua Valley, at 1,600–1,830 metres above sea level. The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the fourth generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara.
Ricardo is a meticulous and incredibly professional farmer who is focused on producing the very best coffee he can. He manages four coffee farms in Antigua; Santa Clara, Puerta Verde, San Agustin and Juaja and also owns and manages a farm called Carrizal in New Oriente. His farms are scrupulously well-managed—from the careful selection of varietals planted, attention given to plant nutrition and pruning, to the close supervision of the wet and dry mills. Both mills are located at Santa Clara Estate and owned by Ricardo, giving him complete control over quality from picking through to export.
Ricardo is passionate about sustainability. Coffee on his farms is shade grown, which protects the plants from direct sunlight, maintains soil health, and provides an important habitat for birds and insect life. The family’s mills are also eco-friendly and feature sedimentation tanks that prevent pollution of the local river systems. All of the pulp from the mills is composted and used as an organic fertiliser for the farm. In addition, parchment from the dry mill is used for fuel to reduce the reliance on wood.
Ricardo has a loyal and dedicated team, and many of his staff have worked on the farm and with the family for generations. For instance, the Farm Administrator, Marcos Rompiche, has worked for the Zelayas for over two decades and is the third generation in his family to work the land. The Production Manager, Israel Yool, has over fifteen years experience working for the family and is the second generation to do so. Including Marcos and Israel, the farm provides work for sixty permanent employees year-round, all of whom help Ricardo manage the processing and production of his farms. The family hires an additional 250–400 individuals during the harvest to help pick and process the coffee.
Ricardo recognises that his people are his most valuable asset “Because 80% of the cost of coffee is labour—you need to depend on a lot of people. I think that if your people are earning a good salary, if they have good conditions and if they’re happy, then they’ll do a better job, and with more will.”
Every cherry at Santa Clara is selectively hand-picked and sorted before being inspected and approved by the foreman at the wet mill. The farm also hires around fifty ‘special pickers’ who have demonstrated particular dexterity and are selected to hand-harvest some of the farm’s micro-lots using their impressive attention to detail. These employees can receive more than double the minimum daily wage through picking coffee at the farm. According to Ricardo, although they are very demanding about picking practices, the majority of the seasonal workers come back year after year, which is a testament to the fair conditions and pay they receive.
On the same day that they were picked, the fully ripe cherries were washed thoroughly in the receiving tanks, and additional water was passed over them to remove any traces of dirt. They were then left in this tank overnight. Additionally, the cherries were taken through the washing channels to ensure there were no floaters, and then transferred directly to the African beds inside the greenhouse where they were turned every thirty minutes initially, and then as the beans dried out this was increased to every fifteen minutes to ensure uniform drying. Drying took around twenty-one days to reach the desired moisture level. This method of drying allows Ricardo more control over the process, enabling him to ensure the coffee is dried slowly and evenly. Once dry, the coffee is stored in parchment until it is ready for export. It is then milled at Ricardo’s dry mill which is located on the farm. The management of this meticulously run mill is overseen by a talented team who carefully monitor every stage of milling to ensure high quality expectations are met. Throughout the process, Ricardo also ensures that all organic by-products are recycled and reused.
Ricardo has a dedicated lab located on his property and a QC team focused on analysing every single lot produced on the farm. Balmer Aragón heads up the QC program and is charge of all of the roasting and cupping. He works closely with Edgar Deleon who is the assistant farm administrator, and has worked for Santa Clara for fourteen years.
In recent years, Ricardo and his daughters, Bel and Katia, have implemented several social initiatives to benefit all their employees, with the objective of supporting them and their families to improve quality of life, and gain higher job satisfaction.
Some initiatives have focused on health, with workshops for employees on basic hygiene and education around the importance of drinking filtered water. On the back of this, the Zelayas created a Ecofilter finance program, where a worker would pay for half of the filter and farm would pay out the the other half.
Another initiative focused on female empowerment. All female employees, or female family members were welcomed to workshops where they learnt new skills like sewing, cooking, traditional candy making and jewellery making. These skills provided the women with the opportunity to create an important source of income in the coffee off-season, and also helped to build a sense of community and purpose.
There are also some long-term initiatives focused on education that have been implemented. In 2011, Bel, who has a degree in Special Education, founded the Santa Clara Scholarship Fund, with the help of her sister Katia. This fund provides financial support for some of the children of the farm’s employees. Many children in Guatemala are forced to stop going to school early because the school fees, and associated costs like school uniforms, are not affordable for their families. Currently there are thirty student recipients of the Santa Clara Scholarship fund. These students receive money for tuition fees, uniforms and schoolbooks, as well as the opportunity to participate in weekly workshops that focus on important educational and leadership skills.
In addition, Ricardo set up a ‘Coffee High School’ in 2019, for people interested in pursuing a career in coffee. The two-year course (which is run on the weekends so students can maintain their full-time jobs) requires students to have completed studies up to the equivalent of Year 10 in Australia, however there is no age limit for the students. In 2019 the first cohort to commence their studies was made up of eighteen students (two of whom are from Santa Clara); this number will double to thirty-six in 2020 when the next cohort begins their first year of the course. Topics covered in the course cover everything from pruning and picking, through to wet and dry processing, and cupping. “This program is aimed at ensuring we are training the next generation of coffee professionals.” Ricardo explained.
The workers’ happiness and respect at Santa Clara was very clearly demonstrated at the Christmas party (an annual event to which all of Santa Clara’s workers and families are invited to dance and eat lots of yummy food). To show their gratitude to Ricardo and his family, the workers surprised them with a video one year, which you can watch below (we can’t encourage you to watch this enough—it will make you smile!).
Wahundura is a washing station (or factory, as they are called in Kenya), built in the 1960s and located in Murang’a County in Kenya’s former Central Province. It is one of four active washing stations – along with its sisters Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro – owned by the Kamachiria Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Society (FCS). Kamachiria is made up of over 5,600 producers who farm in Kenya’s central highlands.
Wahundura receives coffee cherries from local members of the cooperative who grow coffee trees on nearby farms, located between 1750-1850 meters above sea level. The factory is managed by Catharine Wahu – the only female factory manager in the Kamachiria FCS – who oversees the collection and careful processing of the coffee cherries. Besides Catharine, Wahundura employs five permanent staff members from the local communities and an additional five or six workers during the season.
Murang’a County is part of Kenya’s former Central Province, which was dissolved in 2013. The area includes Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Nyandarua Counties, and is traditionally the homeland of people of Kikiyu ethnicity. The central highlands of Kenya are considered to be one of the wealthiest areas of the country, due to the incredibly fertile land, geographical proximity to the capital, Nairobi, and close integration with the country’s colonial administration before Kenya gained independence in 1962. This integration afforded the communities of Central Kenya with opportunities for education, business and political prowess, despite the various injustices of the colonial government. The Kikiyu people have a long and proud history of agriculture and the region is farmed intensively, with coffee, tea and dairy being the most important modern crops.
The coffees in this lot are grown in the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mt Kenya, in an area defined by its bright red, nutrient-rich, volcanic soil, high elevations and cool climate, all of which contribute to the outstanding quality of coffees produced here. Most farmers in Murang’a are smallholder cooperative members – with farm size averaging just one hectare – and grow coffee as a cash crop alongside food crops like banana, maize, macadamia, avocados and vegetables. Tea and dairy are also important sources of income for the producers. Once harvested, coffee cherries are delivered to a centralised factory where it they are processed and dried, ahead of being transported to Nairobi for sale (either directly or through the auction system).
Many of the producers in the region are second-generation landholders, whose parents would have purchased and planted the land. Most coffee farms in Murang’a were planted in the 1950s, after agricultural reform allowed for small Kenyan farmers to produce cash crops on their family farms (instead of only on large, British owned estates). At that time, it was recommended to plant SL-28 and SL-34, which remain the predominant varieties found in the area and make up over 50% of this lot. Both cultivars have Bourbon and Moka heritage and are named after the laboratory that promoted their wider distribution in Kenya during the early 20th Century: Scott Laboratories. This lot also contains around 20% of the hybrid variety Ruiru 11, which was cultivated as a more robust variety with better resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust. The remainder of the lot is made up of Batian, a newer, hardier hybrid that has been bred specifically for its high yields and disease resistance coupled with a high potential for excellent cup quality.
About Kamachiria Farmer’s Cooperative Society
Kamachiria FCS was formed in 1972. Most of their 5,600 farmer members inherited their farms from their parents who were existing members of the cooperative. Kamachiria now owns four washing stations – Wahundura, Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro. The cooperative supports its farmer members by offering pre-harvest financing, allowing them to plan and invest in the upcoming crop. They also buy inputs in bulk and distribute them to members at a lower cost than otherwise possible.
Kamachiria has six members on its board, which is currently overseen by Chairman Peterson Kinyati and Senior Manager Jane Ngunjin. Board members must be active farmers and are re-elected every three years, to avoid corruption. The cooperative employs 25 permanent staff members, who work out of their office in Murang’a town.
This is the first year that Kamachiria FCS have employed Sucastainability as their marketing agent. Sucastainability takes an on-the-ground approach to improving productivity and quality for Kamachiria’s farmer members through training and education programs. Beyond this, Sucastainability connects Kamachiria FCS to specialty-focused buyers (like MCM) that will pay high premiums for exceptional quality.
This coffee was sourced through Sucastainability, who act as a marketing agent for Kamachiria FCS. The cooperative receives assistance from Sucastainability to maximise the potential and profitability of their coffees, both through training and education programs that improve the productivity and quality of the coffees and in the marketing and sale of those coffees. Sucastainability’s objective is to ensure sustained industry growth by establishing transparent and trust-based relationships with small-holder producers. By training farmers on improving yield and quality, Sucastainability helps to improve the premiums that their coffees are sold for, which ultimately has a positive impact on the quality of life for coffee-producing communities.
Sucastainability was established in 2014 and has grown quickly to be the third-largest marketing agent in Kenya in 2020. The team currently works with over 1000 independent farmers and about 70 cooperatives across all coffee-producing regions of Kenya. The agency is managed by Wycliffe Odhiambo Murwayi (pictured above) who has over twenty years of experience working in the Kenyan coffee industry. His team of agronomists is headed up by Lucy Wanjiku Njoroge (also pictured) and they have a representative in each of the six coffee growing regions in Kenya. Lucy and her team provide training seminars for the smallholders focused on sharing best agricultural practices, with advice and resources to help improve yields and quality. These sessions are extremely well attended and have had a positive impact on coffee quality from Wahundura, as farmers emerge from trainings with a better understanding of the impact that fertilisation, pruning, and quality-driven harvest techniques have on the prices their coffee receives at auction and with direct buyers.
As part of their program, Sucastainability provides pre-financing to producers for school fees and farm inputs. They also buy farm inputs in bulk and then pass on the discounts they gain directly to the cooperative, who in turn sell these at cost to producers, ensuring that they distribute the correct fertilisers and pesticides at the correct time for application.
Sucastainability are responsible for milling the coffee, and also provide important sensory analysis of the coffees and feedback to producers. They are also responsible for marketing and on-selling the coffee either directly to traders or via the Auction system, who then sell the coffee to the final buyer. To learn more about the chain of custody in Kenya, click here.
How This Lot Was Processed
All the coffee cherry is hand-picked and delivered on the same day to the washing station, where it undergoes meticulous sorting. This is also done by hand and is overseen by a ‘cherry clerk’ who ensures any unripe and damaged cherries are removed. The ripe cherry is then digitally weighed and recorded, and the farmer receives a receipt of delivery.
The coffee is then placed in a receiving tank and pulped using a pulping machine to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean. After being pulped, the coffee is sorted by weight using water, with the highest quality and densest beans being separated out from the lighter, lower-quality beans.
The coffee is then dry fermented for 8 hours, to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the beans. Whilst the coffee is fermenting it is checked intermittently and when it is ready it is rinsed and removed from the tanks and placed in a washing channel.
The parchment-covered coffee is then washed with fresh water from the nearby Rwarai and Gatura Rivers and sent through water channels for grading by weight. The heavier coffee, which sinks, is considered the higher quality, sweeter coffee, and any lighter density or lower grade coffee beans are removed. The beans are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit underwater for a further 12 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity.
After soaking, the coffee is pumped onto deep drying beds where they drain for 1-2 hours, before being transferred to raised drying tables (also known as African beds). As they dry the parchment is turned constantly to ensure even drying, and so that any defective beans can be identified removed. Time on the drying tables depends on the weather, ambient temperature and processing volume: taking anywhere from one to two weeks to get to the target moisture of 11–12%. After drying the coffee is moved to conditioning beds, where it rests in parchment for about a month. This resting period helps to stabilise water activity and contributes to long-lasting quality and vibrancy in the cup.
Once the coffee is ready it is transported to Kahawa Bora Mill (“good coffee mill”) to be dry milled and prepared for shipping. Kahawa Bora is located in Thika, about 1hrs drive from Nairobi.
Kenya uses a grading system for all its exportable coffee lots. The grading system is based on the size and assumed quality of the bean. A coffee’s grade is directly correlated with the price it attracts at auction or through direct trade.
This coffee is AA grade. This grade relates to the size (in this case, AA means that the beans are screen size 18 and above). More AA grade coffee is found in Central Kenya than anywhere else in the country, thanks to the high altitudes which allow for greater late yields. These later yield cherries have the benefit of better weather, with optimum sunshine and a longer period for the sugars to develop and when they are finally picked, they are on average fuller, redder and heavier than cherries grown in other areas.