At first glance, there is nothing extraordinary about the Thirikwa Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS), which only operates one factory (wet mill), called Gakuyu-ini, located in Kirinyaga county. But you’d better look again, because Thirikwa FCS has been turning heads with record breaking auction prices at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. Members of the cooperative have also been celebrating with higher prices earned per pound for cherry, 10 times the average price paid for cherry and the highest prices paid anywhere in Kenya.
The Gakuyu-ini factory processes cherry for 1,600 members who cultivate around 250 coffee trees on half-acre plots in the fertile foothills of Mount Kenya. With the harvest coming from small parcels, cherry classification is the most critical variable for ensuring cup quality. Small plots and high prices per pound give these producers more control to strategically pick and deliver only the ripest cherries to the factory. Additional hand sorting and floating to remove less dense beans also happens at the factory before the coffee is depulped, fermented and washed.
After the coffee is washed, it’s soaked in fresh water for long periods of time to solidify the hallmark Kenyan profiles. The coffee is dried over a period of two weeks on raised beds, which are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control for optimal drying. When the coffee is milled for export, the green beans are sorted by screen size and graded according to size and shape. Larger beans (17/18 screen) are labeled AA, 15/16 screen are labeled AB, and the round peaberry are labeled PB.