Area: Kiambu County
Nearest town: Gatundu
Process: Fully washed and sun dried
Altitude: 1880 meters above sea level
Tasting Notes: Red grape and currant Aromas with Medium to full, silky body, high, sweet acidity and currant, honey, green apple, a crisp flavour.
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Established in 1965 the Karatu coffee factory has a strong history of producing excellent coffee. Found just north of Nairobi in Kiambu Coutny, the factory serves the villages of Karatu, Gitwe, Kibiru and Kigaa.
As a member of the Gitwe Farmers Cooperative Society (FCS), the factory is also home to the head office of the FCS. Factory manager David Kanya runs the operations with a staff of six permanent employees. Coffee varieties grown by members are SL 28, SL 34 (99%) and a very small amount (about 1%) of Ruiru 11, but with great ambitions of replacing some of the old varieties with the new back-cross of Ruiru 11, Batian, that was released by the Coffee Research Foundation back in 2010/11 season.
Growers benefit from the nutrient rich, red soils typical for the area. With the assistance from Coffee Management Services (CMS), production has been slowly increasing for farmers here. The production has been slowed due to regional preference toward growing tea instead of coffee – with their high altitudes, it is not uncommon to see both tea and coffee on the same plot.
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. 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 Karatu Factory is employing five soaking pits for this process.
The factory has two disc pulpers installed to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that is protecting the green coffee bean. Then, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, traveling through channels to the soaking tank the coffee is carefully cleaned, soaked and spread out on the raised drying tables. 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.
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