rich, sweet and complex with notes of black currant, grapefruit, and melon
region: nyeri county
producer: giakanja coffee farmers society
varietals: SL 34, SL 28 (90%), Batian, Ruiru 11
process: washed: cherries are pulped, floated through channels, soaked for 12-24 hours, skin dried, moved to raised beds for drying, and then stored in conditioning bins
elevation: 1705-1800 masl
importer: crop to cup
from crop to cup:
Giakanja sits on the highlands of Nyeri County, fully 6,000 ft above sea level, lifted by the Aberdare range to the West. It’s about 5 hours north of Nairobi and might be the most infamous of Kenya’s central provinces. Cups here are known for stewy, sticky tomato paste and currant profiles with effervescence and candy sweetness. Giakanja has long been contributing to that reputation. The factory was erected in 1968, only five years after independence, as is typical of Kenyan factories in this part of the country. It’s built around a large 2-stage Mckinnon pulper that channels into tens of fermentation tanks. Generous vistas are available at the top of the hill by the cherry hoppers. Bright baby blue paint on the channels and tanks contrasts against a lush rolling landscape. The tanks are piped down to a pump at the bottom of the hill, where the slurry either gets sent to holding tanks (used if the factory was out drying capacity and it needed to preserve parchment) or onto skin drying tables for a primary drying. There’s endless rows of steel-framed raised-bed drying tables that undulate with the valley.
Giakanja spun out from the larger Tetu Union in 2000, after fifty years of petitioning for independence. In 2010 they received training and support from Technoserve, setting them up for success, and we are happy to help them get the recognition they deserve. Both in 2017 and 2018 Giakanja FCS was able to boast the best premiums paid to members in all of Nyeri county.
Their membership is currently just under 1,200 strong (from 86 years old to 18 last we checked), and they work with CMS - an affiliate of Dorman’s that provides inputs as well as milling and marketing support - and supply Crop to Cup under a year-over-year contract.
More than the scale, elevation or vistas that all deserve a second glance, what stands out in Giankanja after days and days of meeting with other cooperatives is the management. John, the W.S. manager, shows us the factory, and has a considered response to greet all our inquiries. He’s doing a 72-hour ferment and a 21-day dry – covering his parchment at full sun. Sounds pretty on-the-nose. We see fresh paint on all the surfaces that coffee would touch during processing and as we pass by the cherry receiving area we see farmers hand-sorting cherry. Signs of sophisticated processing, good management and motivated members are everywhere.
As we sit in the office we see a map that shows the entire catch basin – where the 1,200 members are all traveling from to deliver cherry. Peter can show us cherry receipts in a log, and Giakanja is paying significantly more than other coops we visited in the area.
There are public charts that track sale prices of their crops and payments back to farmers. Good records means transparency for farmers, and transparency for farmers engenders trust for the membership – but also for us. They keep 12% of the parchment price for the coop – we often see that number closer to 20%. Peter, the Chairman, has been consistently at the helm and communicates confidently and in a timely manner.
The cup follows suit. We see fantastic and consistent qualities from Giakanja. Cup profiles are very bright, candy sweet and full of grapefruit, melon, and effervescence. It’s not rare for us to see quality coffee coming from excellent organization – but it’s delightful every time we encounter it. We’ve been working with Giakanja now for 4 years, and have contracted before the harvest in 2018 – a rather unusual play in Kenya but one that allows them to pursue higher qualities with more confidence of a buyer – and solidifies our access to their absolute best.