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. This lot of peaberry sings on the cupping table!
It is of course very positive that quality in Kenya was high in 2019/20, but it came hand-in-hand with some real challenges. This season was a 57-year low in total Kenyan coffee production. This was due to weather challenges and also to low market prices. The weather is a challenging one. Average temperatures are climbing 0.3 degrees C / decade. That might not sound like much, but it has created a whole host of new challenges with pests, funguses, and erratic weather. This is causing confused trees to flower at inopportune times. Good, diligent farm management is the only real solution to these problems. But that costs money and requires higher prices.
On the price side, we’re trying to do our part by buying on fixed price contracts entirely detached from the volatility of the commodity exchange, with the goal of paying 100 Kenya Shillings per kg of coffee cherry across all bean sizes. This, incidentally, is a whopping 5x above the lowest prices of the season and over 4x the average. I hope to inspire more buyers to pay these prices for Kenya coffee, as it’s really necessary for the sector to not just survive but thrive.
As some light at the end of the tunnel, the 2020/21 season is showing much better yields, so there’s hope!
As with everywhere in the world, Kenya has been impacted by Covid-19. Kenya has brushed up against a number of scary infectious diseases like Ebola and Cholera, and Covid-19 is considerably less deadly than those. Additionally, Malaria is also very serious threat as well. The bottom line is that Covid-19 is present, but other health and economic challenges of life in Kenya somewhat overshadow it.
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.