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Seven Kenyan coffee factories ranked among world’s best

A coffee farmer tends her crop. About 85 per cent of Kenya’s coffee is sold overseas through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. PHOTO | FILE
A coffee farmer tends her crop. About 85 per cent of Kenya’s coffee is sold overseas through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. PHOTO | FILE 

Seven Kenyan factories have been ranked among the world’s best specialty coffee producers, putting the farmers on the path to better earnings for their produce in the international market.

Guama Coffee Factory, a member of Baragwi Co-operative Society in Kirinyaga, tops the 2016 list of 30 quality coffee producers with a score of 97 points out of 100, according to the rating by Coffee Review, an online publication that analyses the quality of coffee globally.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the Cup of Excellence also use the 100-point rating by the publication’s experts.

Coffee Review’s latest report estimates the price of Guama Factory’s coffee at $23.99/12 ounces or $70.5 per kilogramme.

Gatomboya Coffee Factory, a member of Barichu Co-operative Society in Nyeri, came a close second with 96 points out of the possible 100.
Also featured in the list of top quality coffee producers is David Mburu, a lone coffee farmer who scored 96 points.

The list of top quality coffee producers also includes Karatina’s Kenya Small-lot Reserve Karatina (95), Karindundu Factory in Nyeri (95), Murang’a Gondo AA (95) and Nyeri’s Ichamara Coffee Factory with 94 points.

Coffee Review’s co-founder, Ron Walters, said thousands of coffee samples were cupped this year and that they published nearly 400 reviews.

“Approximately 90 of the reviewed coffees scored 94 points or higher. Obviously, all of these coffees are exceptional but some were more remarkable than others,” said Mr Walters.

“Ultimately, we selected and ranked what we believe are the 30 most exciting coffees and espressos of the year.”

Mr Walters said the rankings are based on quality (represented by overall rating), value (reflected in most affordable price per pound) and other factors such as distinctiveness of style, uniqueness of origin or tree variety, certification and general rarity.

Guama coffee emerged top because the sample consisted entirely of pea berries. This is a kind of bean that is harvested from a coffee fruit that bears a single, oval bean rather than the common flat-sided pair.

Pea-berries produce a somewhat different (often better) cup than normal beans from the same crop, from which they may or may not be separated during grading.

The coffee is produced from SL-28 and SL-34 varieties of Arabica.

Coffee Review notes that Kenya has continued to produce some of the world’s most elegant and distinctive coffees despite grower discontent and urban encroachment on prime coffee lands.

Baragwi Co-operative Society chairman Kimani Gatuguta attributed the good results to good farming practices and intensive use of farm inputs by local farmers.

That is bearing fruit as evidenced by higher earnings per kilogramme that the farmers are paid for their produce.

“The society has 12 coffee factories with 14,000 members. Farmers from Guama Factory received the highest pay at Sh76.05 per kg of cherry delivered during the 2015/2016 crop year,” said Mr Gatuguta.

In the 2015/2016 crop year, the society produced 7,614,024 kilogrammes of cherry and 1,186,481 kilogrammes of green beans from which it earned Sh655,330,243 after making Sh595,042,480 statutory deduction.

The society’s chairman, however, said he was expecting a decline in production in the current crop year due to changing weather patterns.
The society has appointed and contracted NKG Tropical Farm Management as its miller.

A miller is appointed and contracted annually by farmers to classify the coffee by bean size, mill and grade it according to cup quality, and dispatch it to the marketer in readiness for auction to roasters and blenders.

Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, Indonesia, Ecuador, El-Salvador, Hawaii and DRC Congo also produced high quality coffee factories on this year’s list.

About 85 per cent of Kenya’s coffee is sold overseas through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, a long supply chain that has reduced farmers’ earnings. 

Much of the Kenyan coffee is exported as cleaned beans and only five per cent is value-added, causing producers to miss out on the high prices paid for selling roasted and packaged coffee.

A fortnight ago, representatives from SCAA, Brazil, Colombia, Hong Kong, Myanmar and China were in Kenya to ink direct purchase deals with farmers – a move that is expected to earn producers up to Sh7,000 more per bag.

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