Established in 1964 the Kathakwa factory is situated in the Central part of Kenya, Embu County, well known for producing high quality coffees. It is affiliated with the Kibugu Farmer Cooperative Society (FCS), and the factory serves two nearby villages of Kibugu and Nguviu. Other crops grown in the area include passion fruit, maize, beans and tea. Factory manager John Njue Kamwengu is assisted by a few permanent staff with additional help added as the harvest comes in. Their daily responsibilities include weighing cherry, selection and grading of coffee, handling cash and addressing the farmer’s needs. The area experiences two seasons of rainfall, the long rains from March to May and the short rains from October to December. On average Kathakwa factory will receive 1500mm of rain per year.
Typically the climate ranges from 12 to 25 degrees Celsius year round. Production cycle follows the standard timeframe with main crop harvested October through December/January and fly crop harvested April through June. After picking, ripe cherry is brought to the factory by smallholder farmers, before it undergoes processing to remove the skin and pulp—known as the wet processing method. The nearest water source is the Kiiriver. The factory is currently using a three disc pulper to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that is protecting the green coffee bean. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, and using flowing water in channels to clean and density sort the coffee, the clean parchment end up in a soaking tank, where the coffee is submerged in water for an additional 12–24 hours. Finally, the coffee is brought out on the raised drying tables where it undergoes several rounds of hand sorting. Time on the drying tables depends on climate, ambient temperature and total production volume undergoing processing. Drying can take from 7 to 15 days in total. Wastewater is managed through the use of soaking pits. The water used for processing the cherry will spend time in the pits to insure that the nutrient rich water created during depulping will not be returned to the nearby water source without proper treatment. This additional step will cut down the risk of contamination, after adequate time for reabsorption the water will be recirculated. Currently, Kathakwa is using eight pits for this process.
For more information on Kenyan coffee, visit our Kenya Origin Page.
•Information credit via C. Dormal LTD