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Video from the harvest at Kieni
29.11.2014Klaus Thomsen

Last week Peter and I (Klaus) was in Kenya to visit Kieni as well as other friends and business relations there.
We came at a good time as the harvest has just started peaking and lots of coffee is coming in to the mill. We’ll write up a longer blog post about the trip in the coming week, but first we’ve put together a short video showing how coffee is picked, sorted, depulped, washed, dried, milled, cupped in Kenya. Basicly, we tried to capture our experience of the coffee’s way from being picked to exported. See the result below or on Vimeo (and please select HD and full screen).

We hope you’ll enjoy it.

Harvest at Kieni

If you’re not sure what’s going on in the movie, here’s a little explantation. I wanted to avoid texting the movie, so you’d have a chance to actually see the whole process. But here’s how it goes:

1. Selective hand picking, where only the ripe cherries are picked. The green cherries are left to ripen and might be ripe for the next picking in 7-10 days. The mill manager decides when it’s time for a picking day and let the members know.
2. Hand sorting right after picking. Over- and underripe cherries are sorted out.
3. Delivery to the mill. Each farmer delivers his/hers freshly picked cherries on the picking day. Here, a mill manager checks each delivery and approves if it can go to the collection hopper. Often the coffee needs to be sorted one more time before it’s approved. The close-up of a hand holding some cherries are underripes that are sorted out.
4. The coffee is weighed. Each farmers is paid by weight of delivered (and approved) cherry. They get a receipt for the amount, and it’s kept in triplicates at the Kieni Mill and Mugaga Society headquarters. From the documented delivered amount each farmers is paid, when the entire coop have sold their coffee and they know how much money they have.
5. From the collection hopper the coffee goes to the depulper, which removes the skin of the coffee cherry and pops out the coffee beans (seeds) inside. The fruit skin or pulp is removed and are used for compost. Cherries that don’t easily depulp are put into a second set of depulper discs and set aside for a lower quality coffee.
6. The coffee goes into the fermentation tank where the sugary mucilage will start fermenting and breaking down overnight.
7. Next morning the coffee is washed and put into a second set of tanks for another fermentation. (not in the video as watching coffee ferment is about as boring as watching paint dry).
8. Coffee is washed (hence why it’s called Washed Process) to remove any mucilage there might be left. Clean water is needed and the mill crew use paddles to create turbulence and wash off any remaining mucilage. It takes quite a while. They are also able to separate out a lot of lighter coffee beans at this stage, which again goes to a lower quality.
9. Finally the coffee is put into soaking tanks where it’s typically left overnight or until there’s space on the skin drying tables.
10. Coffee is pumped with water onto the Skin Drying tables and spread out evenly.
11. Drying takes about 2 weeks (12-16 days typically) and is moved in and out of their conditioning warehouse to ensure even drying and stabilise humidity.
12. Coffee is sorted while it’s drying for any visible defects, beans that have been damaged in the depulper or remaining fruit pulp.
13. When the coffee is dried between 11 and 13 % humidity it goes to the Dry Mill where it’s hulled (removal of the parchment shell that’s still covering the bean), graded in sizes (AA, AB, C, PB, T), sorted for density (any AA’s that might be very light are removed) and then packed. What’s missing from the video is the final hand sorting and packing in bags that take place at another warehouse right before exporting.
14. Cupping the coffees together with Kieni Chairman Charles Mwai. We blind cupped all of Mugaga’s coffes as well as coffees from another society and Kieni was everybody’s favourite.
15. Bags of coffee ready for export.

Kudos to Casper for the choice of African synth pop: The Coffee Cola Song by Francis Bebey, mocking the rich white people in town who feel like they are more civilised, when in fact they are so much more savage because they’re behaving badly to make money to buy their coffee cola. Love it.

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