Once again this year, all of the top coffees Phil cupped while in Kenya were from the Othaya farmers co-operative society. The weather patterns this year we favourable, and there was less rain from the point that the coffee was placed in the conditioning bins until it was milled for export.
Othaya is an impressive operation. They have 19 factories (although not all of them operated in the 2017 season, given the smaller crop) and their own dry mill and cupping lab. The latter two operations are led by Mr. David K. Wairagu. David’s role is very important, and unique amongst co-ops, especially in the cupping lab. This cupping allows them to really understand the quality of the coffee that their factories are producing in order to better it and also ensure that the right prices are being fetched based on the quality produced. For much of the rest of the coffee sector in Kenya, the cup quality of a co-op’s coffee is assessed by a 3rd party – usually the dry mill that the co-op is using. This places the co-op in a bit of a vulnerable spot, fully in the hands of the mill to obtain feedback on their coffees. It’s sad to say, but sometimes this position of power is abused to sell coffee for a lower than appropriate price. Additionally, dry mills have been known to wittingly mis-sort AA and AB screen sizes to reduce the amount of AA (which sells for a higher price) and consequently produce a lower price for the coffees. Lastly, sometimes milling losses are abnormally high and this abuse is again prevented by a co-op that also owns a dry mill.
Mahiga is a wet mill (called a Factory in Kenya), founded in 1962—four years after the co-op began. It might also be the most beautiful mill Phil has visited in Kenya. The drying tables are situated in a valley surrounded by native forest. The mill is managed by James Migwi, and his diligence is clearly evident. He 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. James visits farmers in the nearby area to provide advice and feedback on the conditions of their soil and management of their farms. We are grateful to James, David, and the whole Othaya team for producing yet another stellar coffee!
This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.