About Kenyan, Mukunga, Specialty Coffee
Mukunga Estate is owned and operated by Hanner Wanjiku Mukunga, a producer farming in Kiambu county. The estate’s high altitude of 1,850 to 1,880 meters above sea level creates the ideal conditions for cultivating high quality coffee. Hanner complements these conditions with a focus on quality-oriented processing.
The estate is surrounded by the scenic Aberdare forest. The forest’s slopes and highlands are well known as a specialty-coffee area.
Hanner is a force in the coffee-producing community in Kiambu. She has an arabica seedling nursery to grow seedlings to renovate her farm. She also sells seedlings to her neighbors at affordable rates to make it easier for everyone to maintain youthful, productive trees. Her quality-focus combined with the superb conditions near the Aberdare forest result in truly impressive Fully washed coffees.
Approximately 90% of the trees planted on Mukunga estate are SL28. The remaining trees are Ruiru 11. Most of the coffee trees on the farm were planted in the 1970s. The farm benefits from red volcanic soil and high annual rainfall that’s separated into two rainy and two dry periods each year.
Hanner selectively handpicks ripe, red cherry and processes it on his estate. Cherry is pulped on a motorized 3-disk pulper and fermented. Following fermentation, parchment is washed in clean water and laid to dry on raised beds.
Kiambu is right outside Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi but is nonetheless known for agriculture – specifically coffee and tea. The county is also home of the Kenyan Coffee Research Foundation.
Kiambu County is also well known for its dairy production, and is the largest dairy producing county in Kenya. Many of the growers here adhere to organic fertilizing practices, using only cow manure instead of agrochemicals on their coffee trees.
Farmers in Kiambu face low production due to pests and disease while simultaneously having to pay high prices for inputs. In recent years, many have felt the strain and have sold their land to real-estate developers looking to build on the edge of Nairobi. Support from partners like Kahawa Bora, who help farmers build long-term profitability, can make all the difference.
The ‘C’ Stigma
Letter grades on Kenyan coffees refer to bean size, not coffee quality. So why do C lots tend to score lower? Enter the ‘C Stigma.’
The ‘C Stigma’ itself actually contributes to lower quality C lots. Because we expect lower quality, C grades are usually sold for lower prices. Due to low prices, resources and time are rarely spent to prep C lots as thoroughly as higher grades. Thus, by expecting less of C lots and by paying lower prices for them we are contributing to the circumstances that make C lots lower quality than AA and AB.
The ‘C Stigma’ is hurting everyone. Quality-focused farmers like the ones we work with are often unable to sell their C lots at value-added prices, even though they have the potential to be of high cup quality. C lots can compose up to 17% of any 100-bag lot and because of this, we’re missing out on affordable, high-quality coffees.
The only way to break the cycle is to start placing more value on C lots. If we pay a bit more for C lots and emphasize better prep, we’ll make it possible and desirable for farmers to invest the time and money in preparing C lots the same way they prep their AA and AB lots.
Sucafina in Kenya
Kahawa Bora recognizes the importance of cultivating supportive relationships with coffee farmers and roasters, alike. The mill provides crucial services for the farmers and cooperatives with whom they work.
They provide key agricultural extension work, helping farmers improve the health of their crops, increase productivity and ensure the best possible quality. They also support innovation in the small estate sector.
Kahawa Bora also, more generally, lends their own expertise in quality processing to their clients, providing feedback and contributing to their knowledge of processing methods and evolving market demand.
Most small estate owners do not typically produce enough coffee to fill 50 bags with parchment beans, the smallest quantity mills will generally process. Before Kahawa Bora was established, mills and marketing agents would have to blend smaller lots from multiple estates before bringing it to the mill. This meant that coffee from small estates was often anonymized, which could also limit payment for recognition or quality.
Before operating their own mill, our sister company solved this problem by blending lots from approximately 4-8 producers living in the same area —such as with our Slopes of 8 coffees. This method also allowed producers to maintain the identity behind their coffee and gave them collective control over price expectations. Kahawa Bora’s microlot program is one more option that producers can choose along this vein.
With the purchase of the Kahawa Bora mill, it is now even easier to keep traceability intact all the way from the individual farmer who grew the lot through to the roaster. Thanks to the mill, small estate owners can receive larger payouts for to their high-quality production and link their name to their coffees for consumers to see.
For farmers, having their name and life story connected to their coffee, which is then purchased and seen by the end user, can bring many benefits. It means that they can nurture long-term relationships with roasters and increase the value of their product. For roasters, connecting farmers’ stories to the coffees they grew can create a stronger customer interest for specific coffees, added value and demand, and help finance successful long-term relationships with farmers
Coffee in Kenya
Though coffee growing had a relatively late start in Kenya, the industry has gained and maintained an impressive reputation. Since the start of production, Kenyan coffee has been recognized for its high-quality, meticulous preparation and exquisite flavours. Our in-country sister company, Sucafina Kenya, works with farmers across the country to ensure these exceptional coffees gain the accolades they deserve.
Today, more than 600,000 smallholders farming fewer than 5 acres compose 99% of the coffee farming population of Kenya. Their farms cover more than 75% of total coffee growing land and produce nearly 70% of the country’s coffee. These farmers are organized into hundreds of Farmer Cooperative Societies (FCS), all of which operate at least one factory. The remainder of annual production is grown and processed by small, medium and large land estates. Most of the larger estates have their own washing stations.
Most Kenyan coffees are fully washed and dried on raised beds. The country still upholds its reputation for high quality and attention to detail at its many washing stations. The best factories employ stringent sorting practices at cherry intake, and many of them have had the same management staff in place for years.
COFFEE GRADE: C
FARM/COOP/STATION: Mukunga Estate
VARIETAL: Ruiru 11, SL28
PROCESSING: Fully washed
ALTITUDE: 1,850 to 1,880 meters above sea level
OWNER: Hanner Wanjiku Mukunga
REGION: Kiambu, Central Kenya
FARM SIZE: 10 hectares
HARVEST MONTHS: Central Kenya: May – July (early crop) | October – December (late crop)
Information and pictures supplied by Sucafina
How to store coffee at home
To keep your coffee as fresh as possible, you need to protect your coffee from air, sunlight, heat, and moisture. These all will contribute to making it stale and lose flavour.
We suggest keeping your coffee in an airtight container, in a cool, dry cupboard. Our bags all have a de-gassing valve, to let out CO2 that the beans produce once roasted, it’s not just there to sniff the coffee, and a reusable ziplock. So if you don’t have a fancy coffee jar just push the air out the bag, zip the lock and give the bag another squeeze to get any remaining air out.
Do not store your coffee in the fridge. Roasted coffee absorbs moisture from the air (hygroscopic) and will also take up surrounding aromas. The aromas and moisture levels in the fridge will react with the coffee and delicate flavours will deteriorate.
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