About Kenya Ruita Estate AA
New arrival July 2015 and in grainpro. A direct trade coffee.
It's rare to find small, family owned farms in Kenya, especially where all of the post harvest processing takes place. The typical scenario is that a farm grows and harvests the coffee, then takes it to a nearby wetmill or 'factory' in local jargon, where washed processing, drying and milling takes place. One there some lots are mingled together with other area farms for coffees meeting a certain grade or type, or, top lots can be separated, processed and auctioned. But, a small farm that does it all is quite a scarce find. We recently discovered a family pursuing this goal and they own two farms in the famed Kirinyaga region of Kenya. Being dubious that their final output would be in the top tier we put them through multiple rounds of cupping and came away extremely impressed and we bought the coffee in two separate grades, AA and AB. The AA is offered and AB separately. The main distinction being bean size with AA slightly larger.
The Ruita farm is located at 1800 meters (about 6000 feet). The farm itself is very small, spanning only 1.8 hectares (a little more than 4 acres) and with just 10 full time employees, but they hire over 100 workers during harvest season which occurs between November to February. After coffee is harvested the cherries are depulped on the premises. Once depulping is complete the coffee is then wet processed at the mini washing station located on the farm. Workers wash and soak the coffee for 18 hours prior to drying it on twenty raised African beds.
Though the farm is small it has a broad history. Founded in the 1940's, it is one of the oldest coffee farms in the Kirinyaga region. The varietals grown are SL28, SL34 and some Batian. The total production of coffee is tiny, only 50 bags or 6,600 pounds. While the output is small the employees at the Ruita farm are paid twice the Kenyan minimum wage as well as given bonuses based on the success of sales to roasters in the US and elsewhere.
The coffee is intercropped with banana trees for shaded growing conditions which also protects the ecosystem and provides habitat for birds. The farm has been owned by the same family for decades.
Cup characteristics: Cherry aromas lead up to a tart, tannic and complex profile. Acidity is lemon citrus with additional dark fruit, red grapes and long dry finish. A really classy, complex top Kenya coffee.
Roasting notes: Beans are hard and dense and can be roasted to a variety of darkness levels. Most floral and delicate notes will be presented at City+ to FC range. The delicate nuances of this coffee will present themselves at lightly roasted levels but be sure to have a full first crack.
Kenya coffee facts:
Population (2006): 34.7 million People
Coffee Production: 880,000 bags (60 kg)
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: 50,000 bags
Coffee Export: 850,000 bags
Cultivated Area: 127,000 Hectares (314,000 acres)
Harvests: 2 per year
- Main crop October to December
- Fly crop June to August
Arabica Introduced: Introduced from Ethiopia via Yemen at the end of the 19th century, by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit Congregation. Bourbon varietal introduced from Reunion in 1901 by missionaries. Kent varietal introduced early 20th century from the Indies.
Specialty Coffee Regions: North and northeast of Nairobi; high plateaus surrounding Mt. Kenya. Soil is volcanic.
Grades: AA Plus, AA, peaberry
Farms: About 350,000 farms with an average of 0.2 hectares (about 1/2 acre). 8 major preparation cooperatives.
Botanical Varietals: Bourbon, Kent, various hybrids (SL-28, SL-34, Riuru 11), Blue Mountain (from Jamaica).
One of the great coffee producers. Coffee accounts for 27% of the country's exports and half of their agricultural output. Shading, by banana trees, is a common practice.
Kenya has a weekly auction system that has been in place for many years. It does not provide transparency of revenues to growers and the system is said to be flawed by a complex web of middlemen. There are allegations of corruption as well. The government is working to develop a more direct model whereby growers can offer their coffees more directly to foreign buyers thus reaping a better price.