Kiambara is the name of the washing station where this coffee was sourced from; the station is managed by a co-operative of farmers from four surrounding villages.
Our second Kenyan selection of the year, Kiambara AA is a classic example of the quality and character we love this origin for: Fruity and sweet, with cherry, blackcurrant and lime.
Kiambara washing station is located on the outskirts of Kiambara town and managed by the Mugaga co-operative. Built in the early 1980s, the Kiambara station collects cherry from over 900 farmers around the village and in the surrounding catchment.
Each manager in the Kiambara Co-op is re-trained every year by Coffee Management Services (CMS), as well as being supported through field days that are held by the minister of agriculture to train and help growers.
Kiambara has also planted a demonstration plot beside the factory to provide an educational resource throughout the year. CMS field agents and Co-op Management use this plot to show best practices such as input timing and pruning as well as harvest training for pickers.
The coffee is handpicked and then pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature ‘mbuni’s (floaters)using water floatation, which means the denser beans will sink and be sent through channels to the fermentation tank. This first stage of fermentation will last for around 24 hours, after which the beans are washed and sent to the secondary fermentation tank for another 12-24 hours.
Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for as long as another 24 hours. This soaking process allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean to develop, which results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup - it is thought that this process of soaking contributes to the flavour profiles that Kenyan coffees are so famed for.
The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where they are laid in a thin layer to allow around 50% of the moisture to be quickly removed. This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 5-10 days of the drying period.
A note on sourcing coffee from Kenya
The vast majority of the coffee bought and sold in Kenya is traded through the national auction system, where marketing agents enter cooperatives and estates’ coffees, and traders come to bid.
The good thing with the system in Kenya is that everything is more or less separated into small lots and different grades. By tradition and through the auction system each coffee has been evaluated separately and get a value and individual price based on the cup quality and attributes. This gives the producers great incentives to focus on quality control, as it will normally pay off.
In the last couple of years it has been possible to start buying directly from the auction using a local Kenyan company; they bid on the coffee on our behalf, after we have cupped through auction samples filtered by a local cupper. This not only helps support local, Kenyan businesses, but also makes the supply chain more efficient.