30 Jan Kenya Origin Trip Day 5 – Kiandu
There’s something very special about finally visiting a farm whose coffee you have roasted and got to know and love so well in a previous year. This was the case today when we visited Kiandu in Nyeri County – a coffee we bought in 2018.
This lush, central region of Kenya lying between the Aberdare Mountain range and the western slopes of Mt Kenya is famous for producing some of the country’s finest coffee – in fact Kiandu AB has gone down in Glen Lyon history as one of our all time African favourites.
After a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs in the safari lodge, we headed off in search of the Kiandu factory, encountering much to Leah’s delight a troop of baboons on the way. In the end there had been no midnight wake up calls for leopard sightings and I admit I was a little jealous of the hotel guests whose entry into the visitors’ book on 25th January read: “Saw buffalo and elephant and watched three hyena hunt down and drown a bush buck in the watering hole!”
Formerly the farmers at Kiandu were members of the large Mutheka Farmer’s Co-operative Society but they’ve clearly had ‘issues’ with the co-operative leadership and have decided to now go their separate ways.
Twelve hundred farmers deliver their coffee cherry to the factory at Kiandu during the harvest. Most farmers have on average about 200 coffee trees and last year the factory produced 525 tons of cherry (that’s the freshly picked coffee berries before they have been processed). This year’s harvest has almost ended but a little parchment was still on the drying tables.
Charles Mwangi, the lovely factory manager showed us round and proved to be a brilliant tour guide. The factory at Kiandu was built in 1968 and most of the original machinery is still in place including the pulper and generator. (Amazingly, electricity only came to town in the 1980s)
It was great to see the plant nursery with rows upon rows of tiny coffee seedlings waiting to be potted out. Slightly larger six month old trees (about a foot or so in height) were available to be sold at cost to the farmers who are being encouraged to plant the more disease resistant Batian and Ruiru 11 varieties alongside their existing SL28 stock.
James, one of the farmers, and Kiandu treasurer, took us down the road to see his shamba. As well as coffee trees – which alongside a little macadamia are his main cash crop, James grows avocado, mango, banana, guava and maize and best all has four bee hives which make their honey from the flowering coffee blossoms on his farm. Forget heather honey. Can you imagine? This must surely be some of the best honey in the world.