This coffee was a surprise on the cupping table this year. We’ve tasted this coffee in the previous years, but never found it to be particularly special. This year, however, it was one of our clear favorites as we blind cupped the coffees both here in Copenhagen and in Nairobi. With a distinct sweetness, acidity and aroma it stood out on the table and simultaneously differed enough from Kieni, to make it a good complement to our range of coffees.
We didn’t know much about Gathugu, when we cupped it, other than the fact that it’s a sister-mill to Kieni. They are both part of the same Society called Mugaga. In Kenya there’s typically 3-7 wet mills (factories) in the same society that shares bookkeeping, purchases etc.
The Gathugu factory was originally build in 1984 and in 1996 it became part of the Muga society, which in 2005 became Mugaga. The name Mugaga is derived from the beginning letters of the MUkore location (Kieni and Gathugu), GAchuku location and the GAtina factory.
Even though we’ve spend a lot of time with Mugaga this was the first year we’ve visited Gathugu. Mainly because the quality has never been exceptional. But this year something had happened.
It turned out they had employed a new mill manager, mr. John Mwai Muthee. He’s been managing another mill for the past 5 years and undergone a two week intensive training course on post-harvest processing this year. It shows in the cup. It’s amazing to think that just one person can make the difference between mediocrity and excellence.
The cooperative factory (the wet mills in Kenya are termed factories) consists of around 1.000 member farmers, some who are also members of other factories.
Mostly it’s original SL28 and SL34 varieties grown here, that was planted over 50 years ago. The root stocks are huge and we suspect this to be a contributing factor to the very high quality of this region. Older, larger root structures can go deeper and wider and suck more nutrients and water to the tree. The tree itself is cropped to only have two or three primary branches, which grows to a height of 2.5 meters before being cropped again, and new brances are allow to grow.
One of the member farmers of Gathugu was so kind as to invite us in, although she said she wish she had known we were coming, so she could have prepared something for us.
Ms. Peris Wambui Gathugu is member #1909 of Gathugu and owns the farm with her husbond, situated right next to the Gathugu factory. They have around 1.000 trees and hire pickers to help during the harvest period. Each tree yields approximately 6 kg of cherries, which is on the low side. However, the quality looks great on the farm, with good ripeness and very little decease problems.
Gathugu is now available online, in our coffee shops and with our resellers.
Check out more pictures on Flickr