Ichamama is a wet mill (called a Factory in Kenya), and is one of the original three wet mills of the Othaya Co-op, founded in the mid-1950s. It’s named after the adjacent river, which originates in the Karima Hill Forest. The river plays an essential role in the mill, as it provides the water used for soaking and washing.
In my years of visiting Othaya Co-op (about 10 now!), I’ve visited Ichamama a few times, but I’ve never bought their coffee, until this season. Their coffee while solid, has always finished in the middle of the pack compared to my other favorite mills in the Othaya Co-op. This year it surged ahead, especially their peaberry, which was the best of their coffees this season (better than their AA and AB selections). Also, thankfully, even with all the delays due to covid related shipping backups, it landed in great shape.
Ichamama collects coffee cherry from quite a few neighbouring coffee producers—1126 of them! It’s not that Ichamama is such a large facility, rather these are really small holders, with an average of 120 or so coffee trees per producers. As I’ve talked about before, this is quite typical in Kenya.
The primary coffee varieties are SL-28 and SL-34 with some Ruiru-11, but with an increasing amount of the new-ish variety: Batian. Although, it tastes different than the SL varieties, and I love the taste profile of SL-28 and 34, I can’t help but understand the move towards the more robust Batian. Coffee Berry Disease (CBD) can attack farmers’ coffee trees with almost no warning, and overnight all of the cherries can fall to the ground, potentially devastating an entire harvest. If this happened to you, what would you do? Plant a disease resistant (but still tasty) variety like Batian, right?!
On a positive note, the 2020/21 yields were much better than a challenging 2019/20 season. That being said, the covid pandemic is still having an effect. Vaccination rates are still very low in Africa, with poor access to vaccines a major obstacle for many.
Thank you for your interest in this coffee. With your help (buying it), we can collectively contribute to an improved and evolving coffee sector in Kenya!
As with all our coffee, this green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.