Kenyan coffees have consistently been some of our favorites because of their punchy acidity and juiciness. Back again this year, Thirikwa will leave you impressed with the region’s unique flavor profile.
The History of Coffee in Kenya
Although Ethiopia is believed to be the region from which coffee originated, Kenya didn’t begin to grow and cultivate the crop until 1893. Through a complicated and difficult history of British colonization and wars, it wasn’t until after 1960 that some Africans were allowed to grow coffee but still had major restrictions put on them. Thankfully after many reforms, coffee growers in Kenya have more freedom without the fear of penalties from the government. The region is noted for its co-op system of production, processing, milling, marketing, and auctions for their coffee industry.
What’s Thirikwa’s Story?
Hailing from the Gakuyuini near Nairobi, Thirikwa comes from a co-op washing station. It’s membership consists of 1,553 small-holder farmers, of whom 674 are women. The factory is surrounded by beautiful, fertile highlands and the soil is perfect for growing thanks to the volcanic ash from the ancient Mount Kenya (which last erupted only about 2.6 million years ago). Within this co-op, they produce about 250 tons of cherry per season in the rich, red soil.
Mainly SL28, SL34, and Ruiru 11 varieties are farmed here. After harvesting the crop between November and January, farmers deliver it to the Gakuyini wet mill. The bright, red cherries are hand sorted prior to pulping to ensure the highest of quality. Using clean river water for processing, the wet mill uses disc pulpers to separate the cherries. It then goes onto the dry fermentation process. Going through another rigorous quality separation again, then the next step is for the coffee to sit in a soak tank for 24 hours. This moment in the process is key because it develops the amino acids and is one of the reasons for their unique tasting notes. The coffee is then dried in the sun on raised beds for 11-14 days before it's delivered to the dry mill for more processing.
Then, it’s off to the market! The Kenyan coffee system is designed to give cooperatives and growers the maximum control over pricing of their coffee and may choose either direct or auction sales to ensure that each lot gets the price it deserves!
So a lot goes into getting you this cup of coffee before it ever reaches our roaster and you. While Sam Mirto, Director of Coffee, is choosing what coffee to bring to Ferris, he is considering all these processes that make it all happen. “I like to have something that represents the typical flavor profile. Kenyan is a unique origin. If you don’t like acidity, this isn’t a good region for you.”
Thirikwa is an incredibly complex coffee and is perfect for someone who is looking to get deeper into the unique properties of single origin Kenyan coffees. We hope that by learning about the region and farmers who work hard to bring you this crop, you can appreciate that cup just a little bit more.