Mahiga is a wet mill (called a Factory in Kenya), and it was founded in 1962—four years after the co-op began. It might also be the most beautiful mill I’ve visited in Kenya. The drying tables are situated in a valley surrounded by native forest. Daniel Kingori, whom I knew so well from his time at Rukira, is continuing to capably manage at Mahiga. As did the previous manager, Daniel takes care to ensure that only red cherry is submitted to the mill and that wet parchment is properly sorted to remove the beans with a green hue. Additionally, he visits farmers in the nearby area provide advice and feedback to farmers on the conditions of their soil and how to manager their farms.
Once again this year, all of the top performing coffees I cupped while in Kenya were from the Othaya farmers co-operative society. There were big changes at Othaya this season, as many of the managers rotated to manage new factories (aka. washing stations) within Othaya. The former manager of Rukira, Daniel Kingori, moved on to manage the Mahiga mill. John Ngari, formerly of the Chinga mill, took over management of Rukira. From what I’ve seen, this kind of manager rotation is unusual in Kenya. I suppose the reason it’s not common is because the factories within a co-op operate with relative autonomy from each other. In fact, each factory will independently select a marketing agent, which in-turn means a different exporter. So, actually the shuffling of managers at Othaya is in indication that the co-op is highly unified, operating as one collaborative organization. I think this is a very good sign, as more and better results can be achieved with this kind of teamwork.
The highlight of my visit to Othaya is always my time with Mr. David K. Wairagu, the mill and quality manager. He’s a consummate host and as salt of the earth as they come. He also possesses a wealth of humble knowledge - as if I needed more reasons to love Othaya!
It’s very important to me that as an industry (i.e. the specialty coffee industry), we continue to push up the prices paid for coffee in Kenya. The goal of 100 Kenya Shillings per kg of coffee cherry as an average price across all grades of coffee is completely attainable, and once again I paid above that. We’ll keep doing our part paying better prices, and I’ll also keep applying pressure to other companies to see the value of paying higher prices as well. The ability to pay higher will also be driven by the customer side as well, as roasters and cafes will have to charge marginally more for Kenya coffees, but in my view they’re well worth it!
We are grateful to David and the whole Othaya team for producing yet another stellar coffee!
This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.