TWIN RIVER, KENYA
This exceptional AA lot was produced at the Twin River Estate, near the town of Thika in Kenya’s Kiambu County. The land surrounding Kiambu is blessed with deep red volcanic soils, rich in organic matter and perfect for coffee farming; meaning the farms 55 hectares can produce 180 metric tonnes of cherries annually.
Situated just of Nairobi and to the South of the Aberdare ranges and Mt. Kenya, Twin River Estate takes its name from the two rivers that provide its life force: rivers Thika and Chania. Thika, the larger of the two, provides the psychological boundary between the counties of Muranga and Kiambu. The river also provides a substantial amount of hydroelectric power for Kenya, as well as most of the water supplies for Nairobi and of course the Twin River Estate.
Processing the coffee
Processing at the Twin River Estate adheres to stringent quality-driven methods. All coffee cherries are handpicked and are delivered to the mill the same day, where they undergo meticulous sorting. Factory (as washing stations/wet mills are called in Kenya) employees oversee the process, making sure that any underripe or damaged cherries will not be accepted. After being weighed and logged the cherries are introduced into the hopper to be pulped. Pulping will only begin when a sufficient quantity of cherries has been received.
Once the coffee has been pulped, beans are fully washed using clean river water from Thika to remove all traces of mucilage, during which time it will be graded. Next, the coffee will be delivered to dry on the factory’s raised drying beds. The coffee will dry here slowly over 2 to 3 weeks, during which time it will be turned regularly and covered during the hottest part of the day. Finally, the dried coffee is taken to the dry mill for secondary processing. Here, coffee is hulled and graded by size and density, before being rebadged ready for export.
Problems facing Kenyan Coffee
Some of the issues that farmers face are low production due to pests and diseases and the relatively high cost of inputs compared to income from coffee. Many cannot afford to plant disease-resistant varieties and face being priced out of the market as their yields diminish. Twin River Estate is one of many farms feeling the strain of these factors. As profit continues to diminish, it is highly likely that Twin River will be another fantastic coffee estates lost to the real-estate developers, encroaching from the outskirts of Nairobi.
One of Kenya’s newest but most dangerous threats is that of climate change. Due to the nation’s geographical location in relevance to the equator, Kenya is lucky to receive two crops per year. Traditionally, the main harvest is carried out in October through to December, with the fly crop in June through to August producing minimal quantities. However, recent issues caused by changing climates have meant lower yields during the main harvest, and new quantity being produced in the fly crop. This provides strain to producers, whose yearly income and crop cycles are affected by this change.
Screen sizing in Kenya
The AA, AB and other grades used to classify lots in Kenya are an indication of screen size only. They are not an indication of cup quality. The AA grade in Kenya is equivalent to screen size 17 or 18 (17/64 or 18/64 of an inch) used at other origins. AA grades often command higher prices at auction though this grade is no indication of cup quality and an AB lot from a better farm may cup better. PB (denoting Peaberry) is the smallest screen size.