Gathaithi AA, KenyaRed Rabbit Coffee Co.
This Gathaithi AA offering adds to our current list of new Kenya releases featuring coffees purchased from cooperatively managed wet mills (often referred to as “factories”). Gathaithi Farmer Cooperative Society (FCS) is located right in the center of Kenya’s central highlands, between the Mt. Kenya and Aberdare mountain ranges in the famed coffee growing county of Nyeri.
Gathaithi FCS, like many currently existing FCS in Nyeri, was born of a trend in Kenya’s coffee sector in the 90’s that saw the breakup of large umbrella ‘Coffee Famer’s Society’s’ such as one called Tetu, which Gathaithi was formerly part of. At one time, the massive Tetu Coffee Farmer’s Society located in Nyeri was made up of some 28 different factories with an estimated 18,000 members. By contrast, the breakaway Gathaithi Farmer Cooperative society today is made up of around 1500 members. The common stance among members that were calling for the dissolution of these larger groups at the time was that the relatively few people at the top were making decisions that ultimately did not benefit the broader membership. Whether those decisions were being made knowingly by bad actors, or as a result of administrative and financial mismanagement, is still a matter of debate. The break-up of larger cooperative societies, and the introduction of trade liberalization in 2006 that made it possible for farmers and cooperatives to sell directly to buyers (as opposed to exclusively through the auction system), are changes that were largely motivated by pressure from farmers and cooperatives in search of a more equitable return for their crop. While no strategy has proven to be a silver bullet, the ability for farmers and cooperatives to seek greater returns for their harvests has generally improved with these measures.
Coffee cherries delivered by local farmers to Gathaithi are pulped and fermented overnight in water before being washed in channels where further sorting takes place. Coffees are finally dried on raised beds for 7-15 days before being prepared for export. The cup character of this selection stands out a bit among our most recent releases of Kenyan coffees from Nyeri with its deep brown sugar sweetness and tart cranberry-like acidity. As it cools, tropical fruits emerge in the cup followed by an elegant rhubarb and floral aftertaste reminiscent of hibiscus tea.
In the Kenya process, first, the cherries are sorted, and under-ripe/overripe cherries are removed. Once the sorting is finished, the coffee is then depulped. This is done by squeezing the cherry through a screen and removing the fruit and skin from the bean. The coffee is then left to ferment in white ceramic tiled tanks for 24 hours. Next, the coffee is stirred for a short amount of time and left to ferment for another 24 hours. After two days of dry fermentation, the coffee is washed with fresh water, removing the sticky mucilage attached to the beans that are loosened by bacteria during the fermentation. It’s then soaked in water to ferment overnight slightly. The coffee goes through sorting and density channels, which separates the lots, and then it is taken to raised beds to dry. Once it reaches 11.5-12% moisture content, the coffee is brought to conditioning bins to rest until it goes to the dry mill.
Once a coffee has been processed, dried, and then milled, it goes to a sorter that separates the beans by specific characteristics, mainly size. Coffee goes into a machine that vibrates, sending beans through different screens with different-sized holes and sorts the coffee based on size and density. This results in a more uniform coffee and cup profile. Then the coffees are auctioned based on the grade (size & density) they have.
AA (screen size 17 & 18)
The largest and most celebrated grade of Kenyan coffee. Usually the highest priced coffee on the auction from each outturn and factory. AA is is the most common grade we buy and what we normally expect from an outstanding Kenya cup.
AB (screen size 15 & 16)
This grade represents about 30% of Kenya production. While AB is usually considered lower quality than AA, we find that to not be accurate in the cup. Over the years of cupping, we have consistently found incredible AB’s that actually cup better than their more prestigious AA relatives, enforcing the idea that everything must be cupped and not have its value determined based on classification or reputation.
Peaberries represents about 10% of Kenya production. They are a result of a coffee cherry only producing one bean instead of two. Technically they are fused together during early stages and form one round bean instead of two half spheres. We tend to notice more fermentation tasting notes here. Winey, syrupy, and mouth coating are some of the attributes that we usually notice in the cup.