This peaberry is one of the milling outturns from the Baragwi Farmers Cooperative Society which is made up of various factories, one of which is Muchagara from whom we have bought a couple of lots. Since peaberries represent anywhere between 1 and 5% of any green coffee, depending on the botanical variety, often there isn’t enough to make a whole lot from one factory, which is why in this case the Baragwi Farmers co-op decided to blend the peaberry outturns together and enter it as a single lot into the auction.
The Baragwi society is located in Kirinyaga County and the 12 factories are spread across the Gichugu sub-county. The society has promoted best practices in the field and at their wet mills in order to maximize the cup quality. Cherry that is brought to the wet mills from over 15,000 society members is pulped and fermented the same day and after 36 to 48 hours of fermentation the coffee is moved to soaking tanks. Once the coffee has been soaked it’s moved to the shaded, skin drying area where the coffee is pre-dried to wick away the water covering the beans and allow the coffee to rest and dry slowly before a more intense period of sun drying. After 24 hours of shade drying, the coffee is moved to drying beds in full sun where it dries for between 10 and 15 days. These practices are a standard across all of the wet mills and explains why a blended PB like this can be so consistent and high quality.The vast majority of the coffee bought and sold in Kenya is traded through the national auction system, where marketing agents enter cooperatives’ and estates’ coffee and traders come to bid. The main buyers from this auction system are large multinationals, who then offer the lots to importers and roasters. Unfortunately, this has been the only way to purchase Kenyan coffee for a long time and we’ve become frustrated with the lack of transparency, poor service and price volatility. This year we have started buying directly from the auction using a local Kenyan company, who bid on the coffee on our behalf, after we have cupped through auction samples filtered by a local cupper.
This was not only a conscious decision to support local, Kenyan businesses, but also to make the supply chain more efficient and save money, in order to pass on those savings to roasters. We hope that these savings help increase the presence of Kenyan coffees on roasters’ menus. This is intended to be the first part of a plan to work on the transparency limitations in Kenya and ultimately the goal is to avoid using the auction system at all, by working directly with farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small estates, and not through a marketing agent.