In February I went back to visit the factory situated in the Kirinyaga region just south of Mount Kenya. I had paid them a short visit last year as well and although there’s very little activity this time of year when all the coffee has been delivered to the dry mill, it’s still very interesting. Especially as people tend to have more time to talk when they’re not busy with the harvest.
This year I met up with Josphat Gitumu Wambuci and Nancy Wangeci Kaguuru.
Josphat is the factory manager, just like the other Josphat at Kieni, and has 20 years of experience managing wet mills. It’s his second year at Konyu and before he was working at another factory called Karan.
Nancy is the accountant at Konyu and keeps tracks of the books, especially how much coffee each of the members has delivered. It’s her 15th year at Konyu now.
Konyu is part of the Kabare Society, which is comprised of 10 factories and 13,900 members in total.
The region is Kirinyaga, which is east of Nyeri and just south of Mount Kenya. The area is lush with vegetation on the sloping hills, where the factory is situated at 1,600 meters above sea level.
The name Konyu comes from the spring located just behind the factory. Local farmers told us the spring has the cleanest mineral water, although I didn’t dare to drink it myself. Together with the Thiba river that runs around the factory perimeter, they have ample water supplies for processing the coffee.
Approximately 1,400 farmers are currently members of Konyu and delivering coffee cherries to the cooperative. They are mostly growing SL28 and SL34 varieties with some Ruiru 11 and the occasional Batian – basically the same as all the rest of central Kenya.
Due to the high quality of the coffee, the farmers of this cooperative has gotten a pretty good payment the last couple of years. They have been FLO / Fair Trade certified for the past 5 years, which has helped at the lowest prices, but the best tasting coffees are sold at a quality premium anyway.
There are 22 fermentation tanks in total, which at the peak of the harvest will all be full.
They only use one tank for the whole fermentation process (some Kenyan factories have two rows) but the tanks are only about 1 meter deep, making the intermediate washing fairly easy to do in that one tank.
The drying tables are all made of wooden planks, which you can see is hard to maintain. I was surprised to see the state of the factory as the taste had left me with an impression this might be in a more modern state.
Metal drying tables and tiles inside the fermentation tanks are high on the priority list. The tanks and washing channels need to be painted every season, and as you can tell, the paint wears off. Tiles will keep much longer and make cleaning between harvest days easier.
However, all investments into the factory come out of the total budget, and the members have to decide how much to re-invest compare to paying it out as salary. Our hope is that prices will be good at Konyu again this year and in the future, so they can get some of their wishes fulfilled.
This coffee has fresh acidity and is really sweet. Like the beloved Kieni, this is the juicy and fruity addition to our coffee menu. When cupping the Konyu, we got a long aftertaste of fresh berries, rhubarb, and citrus fruit.