Trader: Nordic Approach
Altitude: 1783 masl
Origin type: Cooperation
No. of farms: 600
No. of members: 600
Farm size: 0.4 ha
Variety: SL-28, SL-34
Processing: Fully washed
This Ruarai AB is another coffee that was cupping better than most of the general AA’s this season. It’s from Nyeri, and is a coffee we have bought for some years. Ruarai is also the name of the river that passes through the area, and this is where they get their clean water for their processing. The factory is under the Ruthaka Farmers Cooperative Society. They are supported by Tropical farm management, a company that supports small holders to increase their coffee production as well as help the factories on quality control and trace ability related to processing. The factory is also giving out the fruit after pulping for the farmers to make compost. The coffees are traditionally processed with dry fermentation before washed and graded in channels and dried on raised beds. The farmers are mainly growing SL28 and SL34, but might also have other varieties mixed in.
Ruarai smallholder farmers
RUARAI is a Kikuyu name meaning “a place of rocks” due to the rocks of the same river over which it flows down along the factory.The water of this river is driven through fallows for fermenting and other uses of the factory. Within the vicinity of the factory, there is the famous Gakindu open-air market, which deals with farm produce and livestock’s.
Ruarai Factory (washing station) is part of the Ruthaka Farmers Co-operative Society. Ruarai collects cherries from about 600 smallholders with an average of 0,4 hectares of coffees. Their total production is about 280 tons of cherries pr year. Fermentation is done with Fresh River Water from Ruarai river.
The Ruthaka Farmers Cooperative Society is located in Nyeri in Central Kenya. Nyeri is known for coffees with intense, complex, and flavor-dense cup profiles. It is made up of mainly smallholder farms, each with some 100 trees. They are organized in Cooperative Societies that acts as umbrella organizations for the Factories (wetmills), where the smallholders deliver their coffee cherries for processing.
The annual average rainfall in the area is 1400 mm. The temperatures are mainly between 14 and 25 celcius. The soils around Mount Kenya is rich volcanic soils. Mainly Nitisol. Nitisols occur in highlands and on volcanic steep slopes. They are developed from volcanic rocks and have better chemical and physical properties than other tropical soils.
The main flowerings are in February – March, the main harvest from October to December and the coffees normally comes available for purchase between January and April.
The smallholders mainly have SL 28 and SL 34. Small amounts of other mixed varietals can occur.
AA, AB and PB refers to the bean size.
Cherries are hand sorted for unripes and overripes by the farmers before they go in to production. An Agaarde disc pulping machine removes the skin and pulp. The coffees are graded by density in to 3 grades by the pulper. Grade 1 and 2 go separately to fermentation. Grade 3 is considered low grade. The coffee is fermented for 16-24 hours under closed shade. After fermentation the coffees are washed and again graded by density in washing channels and are then soaked under clean water from the Gatomboya stream for 16-18 hours.
Sun dried up to 21 days on African drying beds. Coffees are covered in plastic during midday and at night.
Kenya mainly produces fully washed coffees, and is considered by many as the world’s number one quality producer. There are more than 700 thousand coffee farmers (smallholders) representing about 55% of the production. The rest is mostly Estates.
FARMING AND PRODUCTION
The Cooperative Societies are the umbrella organization for one or several wetmills. Typically you have the Tekangu society that represents the wetmills Tegu, Karogoto and Ngunguru. The wet mills in Kenya are called Factories, e.g. Karogoto Factory.
A typical wet mill can have about 1000 farmers delivering cherries. They give a small advance payment at delivery. The better and well-managed wet mills are able to give more than 85% of the sales price back to the farmers. That’s after cost of milling and marketing is deducted.
Is done at the wet mills or at collection centers. When the farmers arrive at the place for delivery they would normally have to empty their bags on the floor (on a cover) to sort out unripe, overripe and CBD infected cherries.
When they start the pulper the cherries go by gravity in to the machine.
They normally use disc pulpers such as old three disc Agaarde or similar brands. The parchment flows from the discs with water allowing the parchment to be separated by density. The densest beans will sink and are pumped straight through a channel to the fermentation tank as P1 (parchment 1 and is what we generally are buying.
After pulping, the coffees are dry fermented (water is drained off) in painted concrete tanks. Normally they are fermented for 18-24 hours. Many factories do intermediate washing every 6 – 8 hours, meaning they add water, stir up the parchment and drain it again.
Washing and soaking
When fermentation is completed and the mucilage is disolved the parchment gets washed in washing channels and graded again by density. The lighter beans will float off and the remaining dense parchment will normally be soaked in clean water up to 24 hours.
DRYING AND CONDITIONING
After soaking, the coffees are skin dried at hessian mesh mats for skin drying up to one day. After a day the coffees are moved to the traditional drying tables. The coffee is then normally dried on a surface of jute clothing or shade net on top of the wire mesh.
The drying time varies between 12 and 20 days depending on weather and rainfall.
Sourcing, milling and export
The dry mills in Kenya works very well and are highly professional and efficient. The coffees goes through their standard grading systems:
E (Elephant beans) = screen 19 and up, AA = 17/18, AB = 16/17, PB = Peaberries.
In the mill everything is kept separate for the auction, and it’s a great opportunity to cup through the different grades from the same outturns and consignments.
At this point we are able to do extensive cupping at the mill or the at the lab of the marketing agent to be able to pick out our coffees before they enter the auction catalogue. Whenever we have found a coffee and want to commit, we will have the marketing agent negotiate the price directly with the producers (in our case the Cooperative Society as we normally buy from the smallholders cooperatives).
The good thing with the system in Kenya is that everything is more or less separated into small lots and different grades.If you buy coffees direct through the second window, the producers expect to get prices above the average auction prices at present time. In addition the system is transparent as everybody knows what’s going back to the society after cost of milling and marketing is deducted.
In fact many of the more serious Societies and factories are competing, getting cherries in from the same areas, and are putting effort and pride in giving the best payback to their farmers. Some of the Coops we work with have been able to pay up to 90% back to the farmers.