Region: Central Province
Washing Station Altitude: 1,700 – 2,000 metres above sea level
Variety: SL-28, SL-34
Washing station: Dagitu
Owner: Danson Wanyutu Karugondo
Blackberries, cherry cola and currants. Vanilla and molasses.
About Dagitu AA (with thanks to Melbourne Coffee Merchants)
Dagitu is a small estate in the Kiambu county owned by a single farmer, Danson Wanyutu Karugondo. The 6-acre farm is planted out with SL28 and SL34 variety trees and sits at 1,700m–2,000 metres above sea level.
Dagitu’s name comes from Danson’s initials, and those of his two sons. Danson inherited the farm from his father, who planted the first coffee trees on the farm in 1954. He has owned the farm for over two decades, and today he picks and processes all of his coffee independently, something which is quite unique given his relatively small size.
Small-scale independent farmers like Danson, who process coffees themselves, enjoy certain advantages over those who only sell whole coffee cherries to local Farmer Cooperative Societies. Perhaps most importantly, they are in a position to directly control quality from harvesting and picking through to processing and drying. The resulting coffee reflects the incredible amount of hard work and attention to managing every single variable that influences quality and helps the producer be in full control, ensuring their coffee reaches its full potential.
Choosing to process the coffee independently is not easy—or cheap. It is more costly to manage the post-harvest handling of coffees on a small scale without the efficiencies of centralized processing and it involves more risk. However, the probability of producing exceptional quality, consistently, is far higher when a farmer is able to take full ownership over their own coffee production. This in turn improves the premiums paid and ultimately has a positive impact on their quality of life.
Dagitu’s decision to independently process and sell their coffee has been supported by Sucastainability; a marketing agent that is on the ground directly helping with training, education and support, and helping to secure the very best prices for their milled coffee.
Unlike other agents in Kenya, Sucastainability has a particular focus on working with smaller holder farms like Dagitu that have the infrastructure to process coffee on their own estates, but whose lot volumes are too small to sell at auction. Though this can be challenging (the smaller lot sizes are more expensive to mill and market), it is worthwhile because it provides more traceability and transparency, and ensures any premiums paid for the coffee are given directly back to the producer.
Sucastainability currently works with over 500 small holder farmers and 70 cooperatives across all coffee producing regions of Kenya. The agency is managed by Wycliffe Odhiambo Murwayi (pictured) who has over twenty years of experience working in the Kenyan coffee industry. His team of agronomists is headed up by Lucy Wanjiku Njoroge(also pictured) and they have a representative in each of the six coffee growing regions in Kenya. The team takes into consideration the individual needs of the producers they are working with and provides tailored advice and resources to help improve yields and quality. They also arrange financial assistance, either through micro-financing ahead of harvest, or by buying inputs in bulk and selling them at a discount to the producers. This ensures the farmer has access to essential fertilisers and pesticides at the correct time for application.
Sucastainability is responsible for milling the coffee, and provides important sensory analysis of the coffees. They are also responsible for marketing and on-selling the coffee either directly to traders or via the Auction system, who then sell the coffee to the final buyer. To learn more about the chain of custody in Kenya, click here.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
The coffee was carefully handpicked by Danson and his team and sorted to ensure only the ripe cherries were processed. It was pulped using a disc pulping machine, which removes the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean.
The coffee was then dry fermented for 16–24 hours, to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the beans. Whilst the coffee was fermenting it was checked and when ready it was rinsed and removed from the tanks.
The parchment covered coffee was then washed in water channels with fresh water and sent to soaking tanks where it sat under water for a further 24 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity.
After soaking, the coffee was dried on raised drying tables (also known as African beds) and turned constantly to ensure it is dried evenly until it reaches 11–12% humidity.
The coffee was then rested in parchment, and when ready for export, dry milled at Kahara Bowa mill in Thika, around 1 hours drive from Nairobi.
Coffee in Kenya is graded according to the size of the bean and the quality. The grade clearly defines the size, and to some extent, it is also assumed the quality is linked to the size of the bean. While this is often true—AA lots (screen size 18+) are often superior coffees—in this case we found both the AA and AB lot to be exceptional, with complex fruit notes and intense and lingering sweetness. To ensure that Danson received a fair price for his entire production we purchased both his AA and AB lots. This AA lot was eight cartons in size. We hope you enjoy this coffee as much as we enjoyed cupping and sourcing it for you!