Beside a picturesque dam and a cascading waterfall in Kiambu, is a large coffee estate that is attracting tourists who want to sample Kenya in a different way.
Fairview Coffee Estate, which grows berries under 150 acres of land, has opened its farm to tourists who want to learn first-hand about harvesting, processing and brewing. Coming to the coffee estate is like going to a winery tour in Cape Town or Naples where you walk through vineyards and sample different grapes.
For almost 40 years now, former ambassador to the US, Leonard Kibinge and his family, has owned Fairview estate. Currently, one of his sons, Michael Warui, is the director of the coffee estate.
On one rainy morning, there were tourists from India, China, Thailand and Vietnam being taken round to learn different types of coffee, how it is brewed and repackaged.
Subhasish Acharya, a tourist from New Delhi said in India, they do not have many coffee farms and factories; so he wanted to come, sample the renowned Kenyan coffee, and see for himself how it is brewed.
A week after the tourists from India left, students from Arkansas State University in the US came for a coffee tour. Some wearing rain coats with folded jeans and flip-flops caked in mud, they walked through the farm picking coffee berries and putting them in jars.
“This coffee plantation is so beautiful. I have wanted to do this for an extremely long time, to see how coffee is made from an African plantation. It is has been exciting to see where the coffee that I drink comes from, how it grows,’’ said Cody Craig, an American.
Most of the tourists who visit marvel at the coffee trees. Few know that their favourite beverage comes from berries that take years for the fruits to mature.
‘‘We have been here for about an hour picking the beans. It has been fun because I drink so much coffee but I never get to pick it. It is very impactful because half of us didn’t even know coffee comes from a tree,’’ said another tourist.
Mr Warui said they introduced coffee tourism so that they can impart knowledge on its production and those willing to venture into agro-tourism, which is not common here in Kenya.
Kiambethu tea farm is one of the few estates that have gained prominence among tourists, having attracted former US President Jimmy Carter and his family to Kenya. Besides coffee tours, Fairview has hiking trails, a bird watching sanctuary and a waterfall.
Millicent Wanderwa, a coffee promotion specialist at the estate that harvests 80 tonnes of coffee every year said the tours last two hours.
‘‘It starts with a walk through the fields, then we explain how the berries are grown, we go to the factory to see how it is processed. The farm tour ends at the coffee lab where tourists taste different premiums grades of our coffee,” she said. As most farmers clear farms to pave the way for residential building due to low returns, Fairview has found a new way to make the crop more attractive.
“Every year when the International Coffee Day is marked worldwide in October, we engage Kenyans and other international tourists through Kahawa Festival where they celebrate everything about coffee,” said Mr Warui.
This year’s theme will be ‘coffee, culture and adventure.’
‘‘We also have live music bands, jazz concerts in the estate,’’ Mr Warui added.
During peak seasons, the farm employs more than 400 people to prune, irrigate coffee trees as well as harvest and sort the beans.