Their cupping lab is under the direction of David Wairagu, who also runs the dry milling operation. It’s clear that David cares deeply about the quality of the coffee and it shows in the cup. Unfortunately, the power was out all afternoon during his visit, so Phil couldn’t see their new dry mill in operation, but their newly installed Cimbria huller was surely an improvement from the old style impact huller, which would have overheated the coffee.
The Kiaguthu factory is managed by Joseph Wahome Kiama and they produced 265,098 kg. of cherry last season. Joseph is managing the quality well, as many lots Phil cupped this year were outstanding. That said, this particular lot stood out as a notch above the others from Kiaguthu.
Kenya is facing some challenging times with climate change. The El Niño weather phenomenon and other climate change affects have introduced some chaos to the traditionally predictable weather patterns. Not only is climate change affecting the yields (generally lowering them), but it’s affecting coffee quality in more subtle ways as well. In Kenya, the systems are set up to mill parchment as quickly as possible upon delivery to the dry mill. This differs from every other country we work in, where the parchment is only milled just before export. The reason for this unique setup is to allow the coffee to be sampled and sold on the Kenya national auction, as only green (dry milled) coffee can be sold there. The implication of this early dry milling is drastic, though. Dry milling, although a necessary step, does irreversible damage to the coffee seeds’ outer protective layer and makes the coffee more susceptible to microbial growth. Additionally, in Kenya, the green coffee is stored in sisal bags after milling. This sisal is strong but a relatively open weave, easily allowing humid air to pass into the coffee. These two issues combine to create a fragile product that is subject to premature fading.
The solutions to these issues are nontrivial and require cooperation between many stakeholders. Phil hopes to continue to dialogue with Othaya and Kenyan Co-operative Coffee Exporters during this next season to create mutually feasible and agreeable solutions moving forward. This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.