Owner: Karindundu Factory
Region: Close to Karatina town, Nyeri County in Central Kenya
Altitude: 1850 masl
Varietal: SL28, RUIRU 11 AND SL28 ROOTSTOCK
Processing: Washed & Sun Dried
Cupping Notes: Rhubarb, orange and ginger with a buttery body
Roasting Notes: City Plus
Kenya Karindundu AB - Per Kg
Karindundu is one of four coffee factories (washing stations) within the Barichu Cooperative Society. The other three are Gatomboya, Gaturri and Karatina. All of these factories have become quite famous within specialty coffee circles in recent years since they are repeatedly producing very high quality coffee. Close to their head office, The Barichu Cooperative Society have recently opened a coffee shop to allow local people (traditionally tea drinkers) to experience the fine coffee of this region.
Karindundu is located on the outskirts of Karatina town in Nyeri County and enjoys good altitude of 1,850 MASL, since it sits within the foothills of Mount Kenya. This extinct volcano has created incredibly deep and rich soils within the region which are ideal for the production of high quality coffee. The Karindundu Factory serves around 1000 members – all smallholder farmers with plots of land that rarely exceed one acre in size. They are mainly subsistence farmers who grow coffee for cash alongside their cabbages, potatoes, mangoes and bananas, and keep livestock usually comprised of chickens and cattle. Coffee varieties are mainly SL28 and Ruiru 11 grafted on SL28 root stock.
The Karindundu factory processes coffee using methods typical throughout Kenya. Local people are paid to pick the ripe coffee cherries between October and January and these are pulped using disc pulpers in the wet mill. The water used to convey the resulting mucilage-coated beans also aids quality separation by density, since heavier beans sink in the water whilst lighter beans float on the surface. By channelling these beans separately, three grades of parchment coffee are created; P1 (the best), P2 and P3. The parchment coffee is then channelled into large tanks where dry fermentation occurs during the following 24 hours. Once the mucilage is loose, the beans take on a pebble-like feel and so the fermentation process is halted by washing the beans in channels full of water, where further quality separation takes place, since low grade ‘floaters’ can be directed away from the dense high-quality beans. Next, the parchment coffee is channelled to a soak tank where it sits in cold water for around 24 hours; a process which develops the amino acids within the beans and is thought to contribute to Kenyan coffee’s unique flavours.
After this the parchment is laid in a thin layer upon raised beds and allowed to dry under the sun for between 11 and 14 days. The coffee then undergoes a period of storage or ‘resting’ before being delivered to a mill where the parchment will be removed, and the coffee screened and cleaned to remove any defects. It will then be graded by size to create AA, AB, PB etc and finally it will be packed in grain-pro lined bags or in vacuum packs ready for export.
Situated on the equator on Africa’s east coast, Kenya has been described as “the cradle of humanity”, due to the fact that in the Great Rift Valley, palaeontologists have discovered some of the earliest evidence of man’s ancestors. Kenya’s topography is incredibly diverse. The country is a land of mountains, valleys, open plains, deserts, forests, lakes, savannahs and a golden sanded coastline. With its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife, Kenya is one of Africa’s major tourist destinations.
Coffee was introduced to Kenya by French Missionaries, with seeds from Reunion Island in the 19th century. Despite its proximity to Ethiopia – the birthplace of coffee – documents suggest that its introduction to Kenya wasn’t until around 1893, with the first crop of coffee yielding in 1896. Though large estates run by British colonial settlers were initially established, the Coffee Act of 1933 paved the way for the Kenyan Coffee Board, who began to oversee coffee production, quality control and auctioning. The introduction of the Swynnerton Plan in the 1950s successfully implemented family smallholdings and the cultivation of both cash and subsistence crops side by side. This dramatically increased smallholder incomes in the following decade, of which coffee accounted for around 55% of this increase. Today, around 70% of Kenya’s coffee is produced by smallholder farmers. Typically, a Kenyan smallholding or ‘shamba’ is comprised of shade-grown coffee, a house, the family cow and a variety of vegetables and fruit to sustain the family.
Kenya uses a grading system for all its coffee exports, based on the screen size of coffee beans. AA grades – above 18 screen size – reach the highest price at auction, followed by AB, PB, C and several under-grade qualities, respectively.
The development of hybrids during the 1930s brought about the highly successful SL28 and SL34 varietals – coffees that are now world famous and highly admired for their wonderful complexity in the cup and unrivalled lemony acidity. The country’s best coffees are grown in the Central Highlands on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya to the north and in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains to the west. Here coffee is grown on farms with altitudes of up to 1,800 metres above sea level and this, along with the fertile volcanic soils of the region, are key to the unbelievable flavours that can be found within the cup. The best coffees in Kenya are also produced by cooperatives, of which there are around 300 comprised of between half a million to 600,000 smallholder members. About 60% of Kenya’s coffee is produced by cooperatives, with estates and plantations making up the balance.