Consisting of deliveries from family-owned farms located around the Ichamara washing station, this AA screen separation adds to Passenger’s recent lineup of new coffee releases highlighting the famous Kenyan coffee producing region of Nyeri.
A relatively small wet mill, or ‘factory’ as they’re often referred to in Kenya, Ichamara is located at the foothills of Mt. Kenya in the southern part of Nyeri county. Around 300 small producers deliver cherry to Ichamara where additional sorting is done before the coffee is pulped, fermented, and washed. Common to many Kenyan coffees, and often credited for Kenya’s hallmark clean and juicy cup profiles, the coffee at Ichamara factory is given an additional soak in clean water after the initial fermentation and washing is completed. After this additional soak, the coffees are spread out on raised beds to be sun-dried to proper moisture levels before being delivered to dry mills for hulling and, finally, export. As is the case with many washing stations in Kenya, the Ichamara factory is a member of a broader “Farmer’s Cooperative” that includes multiple distinct wet mills. In this particular case the umbrella entity is the Gikaru Farmer’s Cooperative Society (FCS) and other member factories include Muthewathi, Kiuu, Kahuro, and Thangathi.
The varieties in this lot include the common varieties for coffees from Kenya: SL-28, SL-34, Ruiru 11, and (relatively more recently) Batian. The Batian variety, which was discovered in the same lab that Ruiru 11 was discovered in 1985, gets its name from the highest peak of Mount Kenya and the second highest point in Africa - Batian Peak. Despite emerging from tree selections of the original genetic crosses that bore Ruiru 11, Batian has slowly gained popularity among smallholder farmers due to its comparatively early maturity period when it first bares fruit, and its resilience as “a tall variety that combines high yields, tolerance to coffee leaf rust, resistance to coffee berry disease, and good cup quality”. By contrast, its relative (the Ruiru 11 variety) features a smaller dwarflike plant, and seems to possess slightly less quality potential in the cup, by comparison. With cup quality continuing to be a priority for specialty buyers, and considering some of the inherent difficulties achieving such quality poses for farmers, it’s likely we’ll see the Batian variety in Kenya for many years to come.