Gakundu AA

  • Country
    Kenya
  • County
    Embu County
  • Region
    Central Kenya
  • Altitude
    1,650m above sea level
  • Variety
    SL 28, Ruiru 11, Batian
  • Processing
    Washed
  • Washing Station
    Gakundu Coffee Factory
  • Farmers
    1,262 Smallholder Farmers
  • Owner
    Gakundu Farmer Cooperative Society

Vibrant and intensely sweet, with notes of Ribena, raspberry, rose, and honeydew melon. Very complex, with a nice depth of flavour.

Gakundu is a washing station — or factory, as the are called in Kenya — and cooperative society. It is located in the county of Embu, at the base of Mount Kenya, just east of Nyeri.

The Gakundu washing station sits at an altitude of about 1,650m above sea level. Around 1,262 members of the Gakundu Farmers Cooperative Society deliver coffee cherry to the station. They own small plots of land at an average altitude of 1,650m above sea level. The main varieties of coffee grown are SL-28, Ruiru, and Batian, which grow under the shade of macadamia and grevillea trees in the rich volcanic soil.

The area experiences an annual rainfall of 1,100mm, and has a biannual production cycle. The fly (mitica) harvest is from April–July and the late second season harvest occurs in September–mid-January. This lot comes from the main harvest later in the year.

Gakundu receives assistance from the Coffee Management Services (CMS) group, who are on the ground directly helping producers improve their productivity and quality through training and education programs. Their objective is to ensure sustained industry growth by establishing a transparent and trust-based relationship with their small-holder producers. By helping them improve their quality, CMS in turn improves the premiums the producers can be paid, and ultimately has a positive impact on their quality of life.

As part of their program, CMS provides pre-financing to producers for school fees and farm inputs. The factory manager is provided with training every year, and there are also some members of the cooperative who are ‘promoter farmers’ and provide Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) to the smallholders. This extension service has a positive impact on coffee quality from Gakundu, as farmers emerge from trainings with a better understanding of the impact that fertilisation, pruning, and quality driven harvest techniques have on the prices their coffee receives at auction and with direct buyers.

Accordingly, processing at Gakundu washing station adheres to stringent quality-driven methods under the supervision of Godfrey Gicovi, the Gakundu Factory manager.

 

All the coffee is hand-picked and delivered on the same day to the washing station, where it undergoes meticulous sorting. This is done by hand and overseen by the ‘cherry clerk’ who ensures any unripe and damaged cherries are removed. The ripe coffee cherries are then weighed and the volume is logged against the producer’s name.

The coffee is then placed in a large tank of water, and any floaters are removed (immature cherries are lighter and therefore float, making them easy to remove). The remaining coffee cherries are pulped to remove the skin. The coffee is then fermented overnight to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the bean.

The parchment covered coffee is then washed with fresh water, sent through water channels for grading by weight (the sinking coffee is considered the sweetest, and any lighter density or lower grade coffee beans are removed). They are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit under water for a further 24 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity. The coffee is then spread out on the raised drying tables and turned constantly to ensure they are dried evenly in the sun. Time on the drying tables depends on weather, ambient temperature and volumes under processing, and can take from 7 to 15 days in total.

Wastewater from the processing is managed through the use of soaking pits. The water used for processing the cherry will spend time in the pits to ensure that the nutrient-rich water created during de-pulping will not be returned to the nearby water source without proper treatment. This additional step will cut down the risk of contamination: after adequate time for reabsorption, the water will be recirculated.

We have selected an AA grade lot from Gakundu. This grade relates to the size (in this case, AA means that the beans are screen size 17-18 and above). More AA grade coffee is found in Central Kenya than anywhere else in the country, thanks to the high altitudes which allows for greater late yields. Often AA coffees cup the best of the table. One of the reasons for this is because these later yield cherries often have the benefit of better weather, with optimum sunshine and a longer period for the sugars to develop; when they are finally picked they are on average fuller, redder, and heavier than cherries grown in other areas.

We only purchased 42 cartons of this coffee and feel very lucky to share it with you. We hope you enjoy it!