From Copenhagen to Nairobi
After a lot of waiting and security, we finally got into Nairobi. We went straight to the hotel, tired after travelling for 18 hours. The next day we were out early driving 2 hours from Nairobi to the region Nyeri. The scenery in Kenya is amazingly beautiful!
Kiangoi wet mill
The first factory on the agenda was Kiangoi. I was super excited to see my very first wet mill. Looking at Kiangoi from the gate, the first thing you see is the beautiful landscape. It's full of hills, tall trees, beautiful flowers, and of course big rows of coffee, drying on long black African beds or “raised beds” as we call them. There is a slight buzzing of local people talking and laughing.
We were greeted by the manager, who was happy to see us! After all the introductions and photos, we started the tour of Kiangoi which I’ve been looking forward to for a long time! I was eager to see everything I had been seeing in pictures for many years, up close.
We started in the arrival hall where the local coffee farmers were starting to arrive with big bags of cherries. Some were driving in on motor bicycles, some were walking, and others started to arrive in cars.
They emptied all the bags out on big plastic sheets and started sorting all the cherries. All green, misshapen, overripe, and flawed cherries were sorted out. The factory manager would sometimes help and check to see if there were any unripe or overripe cherries in the mix.
If the manager were happy with the result, he would clear it, and the farmer would load all his cherries onto a big scale, to see how much coffee he had picked. Right after he would pour all his cherries into a big concrete tank, with all the other farmers' cherries.
Next on the tour was the nursery. It’s a small garden where the coffee trees start their journey. It’s a place where they can grow and be nursed and looked after, before being planted out in the fields. The nursery contains different varieties which are common in Kenya, such as SL 28/34, Ruiru 11 and Batian.
The factory manager wanted to show us something that didn’t have anything to do with coffee. A couple of weeks before, they had a lot of their dried coffee stolen. To combat this, they had installed cameras, all over the factory. They could monitor all the cameras in a small wooden shack.
Then back to the coffee tour. We went to see the big and loud de-pulper. A big machine that removes all the coffee cherry pulp, before going to the fermentation tanks.
The fermentation tanks are big tiled concrete tanks where the just de-pulped cherries get soaked in water. The fermentation is a very important step in the coffee journey because this is the step where the coffee gets a lot of its flavours and aromas, that we enjoy back in at the bar in Copenhagen.
The factory manager was eager and proud to show the next thing on the tour: New drying tables. The cooperation had put money aside to buy new drying tables, made from steel. They were all painted black and they looked professional as they stood there, side-by-side, filled with coffee beans. He explained that this year they didn’t have to do any reparations on the drying tables.
In the following years, they had been made from wood which needs a lot more maintenance. On top of that, he said that it would improve the quality since all of the tables were equally straight and the beans therefore would dry more uniformly.
Next day – Kieni
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Kieni is the breathtaking landscape. Much like Kiangoi, you could see big, beautiful trees, hills, and small houses far away. You also notice a lot of kids' laughter. The local school is close to Kieni, so all the while we were there, we could hear local children laughing, singing, and playing.
We were met by Charles and Josphat. The factory managers. I met them both in Copenhagen when they came to visit us, and it was good seeing them again!
I’ve seen and talked about Kieni many times in pictures and in books, to guests, but seeing it in real life was a completely different experience!
We started the tour in a massive open hall where the local farmers were already starting to show up with their picked cherries.
We went on a quick tour around the factory, but before we got the big tour, Charles and Josphat wanted us to see a nearby farm where the harvest was taking place.
I can’t describe how excited I was to see and taste my very first coffee cherry! It was all I’ve ever imagined it would be like. The taste of ripe cherry was sweet and a little bit acidic. You could feel the sugar layer surrounding the bean. It was an awesome feeling picking my first (but not the last) cherry.
We walked in and out of coffee trees and talked with the local pickers. It was amazing to see how quick and precise they could pick only the ripe cherries. Because they only pick the ripe cherries, they will have to go out and pick several times. That is one of the reasons why coffee from Kieni is one of the best in the world.
Back at Kieni, they had already de-pulped a lot of the coffee. We saw how the coffee got into the fermentation tanks. At Kieni the fermentation tanks are, just like Kiangoi, tiled, which makes it easier to clean afterwards.
From the fermentation tanks the coffee travels, by water, through tiled concrete canals. We often say that coffee from Kieni is 'super washed'. The rain season is before the harvest season, so they have plenty of water to use from a nearby river.
They use water to:
1. Clean the coffee from any leftover mucilage.
2. Sort the heavy beans from the lighter ones.
3. Simply move the coffee from one place to another.
In order to get the last mucilage off, they push against the flow with big wooden paddles. Really hard physical work to do, even when it's not 30 degrees.
From canals, the beans travel by water, through big pipes, all the way over to the drying tables. It’s a smart system that saves the workers at Kieni from a lot of manual work! From here the beans are divided evenly across the drying tables and are ready to be dried by the sun.
To make sure that the beans don’t dry too fast, which would make them hard to roast, they are sometimes during the day covered by see-through black cloths.
It’s a tricky thing to get the right amount of moisture in the beans before they sent them to Denmark. With high moisture, the beans might rot on the way. Too low and beans will roast faster and taste like hay.
All in all an amazing trip that I will never forget!