Rukira is a wet mill (called a Factory in Kenya), and it is one of the newer mills of Othaya, built in 1979. Presently, there are 19 factories in the co-op (although not all of them operated in the 2017 season, given the smaller crop). The crop in 2017 was the smallest on record in about 10 years. This is posing a difficult challenge for the Kenyan coffee sector, as the prices are higher but not nearly high enough to offset the much reduced production volume. Phil voluntarily increased our prices paid to Othaya this year, to do our part to help offset their situation.
Curious to learn more about the root cause of the low yields, Phil visited the Kenya Coffee Research Institute this year on his way out to Othaya. He had been meaning to visit there for many years, and finally made it happen! During his visit, Phil was introduced to Mr. Joseph Mburu, a soil chemist and plant nutritionist – Phil was enthralled. The depth of his knowledge on soil and plant nutrition is astounding, rooted in both scientific knowledge and practical experience. He talked about soil testing, analysis, and optimal inputs regiments. He interlaced this complex science with a dash of wit, making an already engaging conversation even more amusing. He explained some of the underlying causes for reduced yields and his initiatives to educate farmers on how to combat dry seasons, and stabilize yields. We truly hope that this information gets properly disseminated and utilized.
Circling back to Rukira, it was truly a standout during Phil’s cupping in Kenya this season. It shone particularly bright during his cuppings directly at Othaya. After this coffee impressed him so much, Phil went to visit their mill. Their operation is typical of most of the other Othaya mills, with one distinct difference. They had just replaced their pulping disks on their de-pulping machine with a new design. Much like replacing grinding burrs is essential for good coffee brewing, new pulping disks have a big impact on quality. They allow for better selection of ripe cherry during pulping (by not pulping under ripe cherry), as well as just applying more gentle pressure and causing less damage to the beans. This is just one of many reasons Rukira is such a dynamic and complex coffee, as we are sure you’ll agree!
This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.