Thuti was built in 1958 as the first and founding factory of the Othaya Co-op. The design of Thuti is quite different than all of the other factories of Othaya—it’s much smaller and quite spread-out. Comparing it to the others, one can tell that the Othaya directors initially thought they would put out lower volume than they actually did. A good problem to have, I suppose! Since it’s a smaller factory, it can process less coffee than others. Thus, the out-turns tend to be smaller…like this one.
Thuti is consistently producing top cup quality, and the only reason I don’t buy from them every year is that the coffee is often over-dried. Over-dried coffee tends to fade faster, and by the time it arrives in Calgary it can already show diminished sweetness and character as well as an astringent mouth feel. The condition of the coffee is always something I’m analyzing during my trips and it’s an essential criterion to my buying decisions. Even if a coffee cups amazingly well in Kenya, if it’s not dried properly, I don’t buy it. I strongly believe that this disciplined approach results in better coffee in your cup! Thankfully, this lot was dried well, and upon arrival in Calgary it’s tasting vibrant and delicious.
It is of course very positive that quality 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.