The first time I was in Kenya in 2007 I remember a certain coffee stand out in the cupping room even before we got to taste it. As the sample roast had just finished and the beans cooled down, one of the cupping lab assistants would grind the coffee and prepare for the cupping.
As this one coffee was being ground I remember the smell filling the room, and myself asking: “What is that coffee?!”. It turned out to be one of the top lots that year and came from the Tegu factory.
Tegu is a wet mill in the Nyeri county near the town Karatina. It’s only about 20 minutes drive from Kieni and throughout the years we’ve been visiting the factory most of the years, as it’s always been one of our favorites.
Due to the way we work, we’ve committed our long-term relationship with Kieni and thus followed them this far through shifting marketing agents (the company required by law and that Kieni votes to represent them to market their coffee). That means we’ve mostly decided to show a secondary Kenyan coffee that was also marketed through the same channel, as that allows us to buy directly and ship the coffee out in the same container, which is both convenient and saves costs as we don’t use any importers.
This year we were happy to see that Tegu was with the same marketing agent as Kieni and excited to cup their coffee again. It did not disappoint and we instantly bought the AA lot we liked the most.
The Tegu factory was founded in 1969 and is part of the Tekangu Society together with Karogoto, Ngunguru and the newer factory Wakamata. Tegu is a cooperative, owned by it’s members, which are the farmers that deliver coffee cherry to the mill. Today Tegu has somewhere around 900 active members. This number changes from year to year, as farmers are free to delivery cherry to any mill they want. Most people will choose either the most convenient one (the closest or easiest to get to) or the one that has paid out the most money the prior year. In 2015 Kieni had 1.300 members and other years it’s been 1.500 (according to my notes).
Production also changes a lot from year to year. In the 2014/15 harvest Tegu had around 800.000 kgs of coffee cherry for processing. Last year was only 232.000 and this year (2017/18) is only slightly higher at 265.000 kgs cherry. This is due to the tough climate conditions this year and is not unique to Tegu at all.
Michael Mwangi is the factory manager at Tegu. He is employed by the board, which is elected by the members of the cooperative. Michael has been the manager for the past 8 years and before that he was the machine operator, which is the person responsible for maintaining and adjusting the all-important depulper. The depulper must be set to just the right amount of pressure so you don’t damage the beans or risk not depulping a large amount of the coffee cherries.
We’ve met Michael throughout the years, both on planned an unplanned visits. I’ve made a few stops at Tegu in years where they didn’t know I was coming, and Michael has always been gracious and showed me around the factory and talked honestly about the challenges they face and the outcome of the coffee that year.
On the cupping table this year Tegu stood out with an immense sweetness and juicy acidity. It’s classic Kenya when it’s best with lots of black currant in the nose. The coffee has just arrived in Denmark and we weren’t happy with our first production roast, so we held that back and did a new one that was released on Friday.
The coffee is still so fresh, both from harvest and from roast, that we feel we’re still getting to know it in the cup. Brewing it on Kalita yields a super juicy and sweet cup with a fantastic, aromatic aftertaste. We hope you’ll enjoy this first Fresh crop Kenyan as we’re waiting for our Kieni to arrive in a few weeks.