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Gachirago Coffee Factory is a washing station (or factoryas they are called in Kenya) located in Gaitheri in the Murang’a County which is located in the Central Province.  This region was has around 100,000 small producers who enjoy the perfect conditions to produce exceptional coffee, with high altitudes ranging from 1,350-1,950m above sea level, combined with rich, fertile red volcanic soil, moderate rainfall and temperatures that range from 13-24˚C all year round.

Gachirago was formed in 1964 under Kagima Farmers Co-operative Society. The washing station sits at altitude of 1,400m above sea level. The main varieties of coffee grown by the contributing small holders are SL-28, SL-34, Batian and Ruiru 11. The harvest season in the region runs from through May-June and November-December.  This coffee comes from the main harvest at the end of the year.

Gachirago receives assistance from the Coffee Management Services (CMS) group, who are on the ground directly helping producers improve their productivity and quality through training and education programs. Their objective is to ensure sustained industry growth by establishing a transparent and trust-based relationship with their small-holder producers. By helping them improve their quality, CMS in turn improves the premiums the producers can be paid and ultimately has a positive impact on their quality of life.

As part of their program, CMS provide pre-financing to producers for school fees and farm inputs. The factory manager is provided with training every year, and there are also some members of the cooperative who are ‘promoter farmers’ and provide Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) to the smallholders. This extension service has a positive impact on coffee quality from Gachirago, as farmers emerge from trainings with a better understanding of the impact that fertilisation, pruning, and quality driven harvest techniques have on the prices their coffee receives at auction and with direct buyers.

Accordingly, processing at Gachirago Washing Station adheres to stringent quality-driven methods under the supervision of Johnson Gichoya, the factory manager. All the coffee is hand-picked and delivered on the same day to the washing station, where it undergoes meticulous sorting. This is done by hand and overseen by the ‘cherry clerk’ who ensures any unripe and damaged cherries are removed. The ripe coffee cherries are then weighed and the volume is logged against the producer’s name.

The coffee is then placed in a large tank of water, and any floaters are removed (immature cherries are lighter and therefore float, making them easy to remove). The remaining coffee cherries are then pulped to remove the skin and the coffee is then fermented overnight to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the bean.

The parchment covered coffee is then washed with fresh water, sent through water channels for grading by weight (the sinking coffee is considered the sweetest, and any lighter density or lower grade coffee beans are removed). They are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit under water for a further 24 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity. The coffee is then spread out on the raised drying tables and turned constantly to ensure they are dried evenly in the sun. Time on the drying tables depends on weather, ambient temperature, and processing volumes, and can take from 7 to 15 days in total.

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