Kii - Kenya
Kii - Kenya
|TASTE||PINK GRAPEFRUIT, SHERBET, BLACKCURRANT & BUTTERSCOTCH|
|ORIGIN||KIRINYAGA EAST DISTRICT, KERUGOYA, KENYA|
Kii is one of those Kenyan coffees you may have seen or had in the past; it's somewhat of a classic. Kii has a more traditional Kenyan flavour with a high phosphoric acidity that sparkles, notes of blackcurrant and a sweet grapefruit flavour.
In Kenya, the AA, AB and other grades are an indicator of screen size, they aren’t an indication of quality. The SL 28 and SL 34 varieties were created at Scott Agricultural Laboratories in 1931 to combat the stresses caused by drought in Kenya incurred by coffee producers. With deep roots, this varietal was better able to locate moisture in the water table and more resistant to periods of low precipitation. The SL 34 was developed from the French Bourbon. Additionally, it produces larger cherries with a shorter growing period.
This lot was collectively grown by smallholder producers from the Rung’eto Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS). Established in 1976, the FCS currently represents up to 1,214 small-scale farmers, all with coffee plots of under 0.5 hectares on average. Farmers in this region first planted coffee in 1953, since then coffee has become a primary cash crop in the area. The Kii Factory is one of three wet mills owned and operated by the Rung’eto FCS and was constructed in 1995.
These farms overlook the famous elephant migration route that connects Aberdare and Mt. Kenya Forest. Along with elephants, many other wild animals such as buffaloes, antelopes and monkeys can be found in the area. These animals often find their way onto the farms to graze on the grassland or chew on the sweet coffee cherries.
The FCS is managed by a democratically elected board of 7 members, each of whom serves as a representative of a particular catchment area. Additionally, the FCS employs 25 permanent members of staff, headed by the Secretary Manager, who oversees the day-to-day running of the FCS under the board’s supervision.
The producers, despite their small size, pay stringent attention to cultivation methods and regularly apply compost and farmyard manure to ensure soil fertility. Inorganic fertilisers are applied less frequently, though they are often necessary throughout the year.
Farmers selectively handpick the ripest cherries, which are then delivered to the wet mill on the same day. All farms delivering to the wet mill are located within a 3-mile radius and deliver to the mill via a variety of methods – including motorbike, wheelbarrow and bicycle. Cherries are hand sorted before pulping, with damaged and under-ripe cherries being separated from the red, ripe lots, and are further defined into lots according to quality. The cherries are then pulped to remove the external fruit and then fermented in water for 16-24 hours. After fermentation, the coffee is washed in clean, fresh water from the local Kii River to remove all traces of mucilage before being delivered through sorting channels to dry on raised beds.
While it is drying parchment coffee is sorted again to remove any discoloured or damaged beans. When the optimal humidity is reached, the parchment coffee is then delivered to the dry mill where it is given an ‘outrun’ number, defining it by the week in that season, the dry mill, and the delivery number for that week.
Coffee farming in this region dates back to the 1950s, but many members of the FCS rely on other economic and agricultural activities for their livelihoods. In addition to producing coffee, most producers in the area also grow macadamia, maize and dairy for sale at local markets and for their tables.
Some of the issues that producers face are low production due to pests and diseases and the relatively high cost of inputs. Many need help to afford to plant disease-resistant varieties and face being priced out of the market as their yields diminish. It is no surprise that many young people in the region see no future in continuing to farm coffee. The FCS is always looking to fund programs that will improve not only the livelihoods of their producers but also engage youths to continue farming coffee.