Region: Thika district, Central Province
Owners: 800 smallholder farmers
Altitude: 1,880 metres above sea level
Variety: 90% SL28 and SL34, 10% Ruiru 11
Processing: Washed and sun dried
Juicy, with blackcurrant acidity and honey sweetness. Fruit salad, limes and a dark chocolate finish.
About Karatu (with thanks to Melbourne Coffee Merchants)
Karatu (pronounced “car-ah-two”) is a coffee-washing station, or ‘factory’, as it is called in Kenya, situated in the Central Province of Kenya in the Thika District. It is located on 11 acres of land, about 60 kilometres north of Nairobi, close to the town of Gatundu. It was established in 1965, and serves small coffee growers in the surrounding villages of Karatu, Gitwe, Kibiru and Kigaa.
Currently Karatu is affiliated to the Gitwe Farmers Cooperative, which has 800 members. Factory manager David Kanya oversees the operations of the washing station, with a staff of six permanent employees, and around eight casual employees during the harvest.
Coffee varieties grown by members are SL28, SL34 (90%) and Ruiru 11 (10%), and growers benefit from the high altitudes and rich, red soils typical of the area. This lot is AB and we purchased it because it stood out on the cupping table.
After picking, the ripe cherry is brought to the factory by smallholder farmers. At the factory it is weighed and then loaded into a de-pulping machine. After removing the outer fruit of the coffee, the beans are fermented for 12 to 24 hours, and then carefully washed and sorted by weight, with any lower density or lower grade beans removed. They are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit 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 is laid out to dry on raised beds for 7 to 15 days.
Waste water is managed through using soaking pits; the factory is currently using five pits to manage the wastewater from processing, and waste water is also recirculated.
Karatu is currently receiving assistance from Coffee Management Services (CMS), who have been on the ground directly helping producers improve their productivity and quality through training and education programs. Their objective is to establish a transparent and trust-based relationship with the smallholder farmers, helping to support sustained industry growth and driving the continued improvement of the coffee, and in turn, the premiums it fetches.