Coffee Origin: Kiambu County, East Africa
The Muhugu Estate is located in Kiambu county. The estate is owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. D.G Njoroge. In the Kikuyudialect “Muhugu” means “Loquat tree”, which can be seen all throughout the farm. The estate is located near the Mukuyu river which feeds a dam that provides irrigation to the farm and this water is used when the weather is dry.
Kenya Coffee Processing and Sorting
The majority of Kenyan coffee is produced using a variation of the washed processing style. The coffee is picked and the flesh of the cherry is removed using a depulper. The depulped cherry is left to ferment with or without water overnight or for 8-12 hours. The coffee is then washed through channels to remove mucilage and any remaining pulp. The coffee is then soaked and fermented a second time to break down any remaining mucilage before being raked through channels again. As the coffee moves through channels, the current will carry less dense coffee further down the channel and more dense coffee will settle to the bottom first. More dense coffee is generally higher quality and this channel selection allows the mills to separate the highest and lowest quality coffee. The sorted coffee is then laid to dry, primarily on raised beds.
Kenya Coffee Varieties
SL-28 is the most common variety planted in Kenya. It is best suited for medium-high altitudes with moderate rainfall, and shows drought resistance. SL-28 can be left untended for several years or decades and still maintain its productivity. Some trees in Kenya may be 60-80 years old. It was created from varieties collected from Tanzania in 1931, formerly Tanganyika. SL-28 has spread out of Kenya and is now grown in smaller quantities across Latin America as well. Genetic tests have shown it is a relative of the Bourbon variety group.
SL34 is another Scott Labs cultivar with exceptional cup quality, but highly susceptible to rust and berry disease. This variety is better suited to high elevation areas with good rainfall. It is a relative to the Typica Group.
Ruiru 11 is a compact cultivar with good yield created as a result of the coffee berry disease epidemic that caused the loss of 50% of Kenya’s coffee crops in 1968. The Coffee Research Institute focused its efforts on disease resistant cultivars with high yields and good cup quality. Caturra and Timor hybrids were crossed with more complex hybrids to eventually create Ruiru-11, named for the research station. Ruiru-11 must be pollinated by hand for a seed to be viable which limits its application on a very large scale. Ruiru-11 generally offers less complex acidity than SL-28 or SL-34, causing farmers to choose between resilience and quality.
Batian is the newest cultivar to be created by the Coffee Research Institute. Released in 2010, Batian is a resistant variety to leaf rust and berry disease created by crossing Ruiru 11 with SL-28, SL34 and other varieties. Batian is more promising for specialty coffee because of its increased cup quality compared to Ruiru-11.
Current Climate in Kenya
Kenya continues to struggle against climate change and urbanization. Climate change is creating shorter, less predictable rainy seasons and drought in some areas of the country. This is causing decreased yields and less certain quality. Many farmers are looking to produce different crops or to raise livestock for a more reliable income. As more people relocate to the cities, land is becoming increasingly more expensive in the primary coffee growing regions surrounding Nairobi. As coffee becomes increasingly more difficult to grow, farmers may opt to sell their land to developers.
Domestic consumption of Kenyan coffee is growing, attributed directly to the growth of the Kenyan middle class. Over the last 10 years, local consumption doubled to 5% of national production. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of cafe’s grew to about 400 from just over 200 and the number of local roasters grew to 25.
Over the last 20 years, Kenya’s output has declined by about 50%, but the average price per kilo has nearly doubled. The specialty coffee industry continues to value the vibrant acidity and unique flavor of Kenyan coffee. The addition of the second window for fully traceable Kenyan coffee represents opportunity that did not previously exist to build strong relationships between consumer nations and Kenyan producers.