The Karogoto mill is part of Tekangu Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society, which got its name from combining the names of their three mills: Tegu, Karogoto and Ngunguru. In turn, Karogoto gets its name from the narrow but fast flowing river which runs down the centre of the steep valley on whose side the mill is perched.
The mill is split in half by a road, with the sorting shed, depulper and fermentation tanks on the lower side and the drying beds on the upper slope of the hill. To get the washed coffee from the processing area up to the drying beds it is pumped with water in tubes. There's a great view of the valley and weaver birds make their homes in the trees around the mill.
Ephraim Maina Muthee has managed the mill for 8 years now. When we visited for this harvest, the depulper disks had broken, so the people in charge had rushed off to the town to get them repaired. So it’s fair to say we arrived to some confusion - broken disks meant coffee couldn’t be processed and that meant either producers would have to deliver their coffee to another mill or the cherries would sit unprocessed, which can quickly damage quality.
Then Ephraim arrived to meet us - he’d been on holiday but hearing what was going on decided to come in anyway. He’d been working at home on his own coffee trees, but after giving us a tour and catching up on things we left him as he headed into the mill to make sure everything was ready for when the repaired disks came back.
Karogoto has around 1,400 smallholder farmers on it’s books, with about 1,000 of them actively delivering. When we left Ephraim, he was expecting about 80,000 kg of coffee cherry to be delivered this season - so an average of just about 80 kg of coffee cherries per producer (or about 15 kg of green coffee beans, or 12 kg of roasted coffee).
As well as good prices for the farmers, Karogoto offers access to fertilizers and other agronomic supplies on credit, using the bigger volume to get a bulk discount for their partners.
The land neighbouring the rear of the drying beds belongs to a high school. They have started planting coffee trees there, a great opportunities for the pupils to learn about coffee production in a country where the average age of coffee producers is increasing rapidly.
When Roland visited he was kind enough to note down the exact GPS coordinates so they can now be shared with you! If you'd like to have a closer look at the farm or surrounding area on Google Maps, here's a link https://goo.gl/maps/2PRZQuVm419WRY6N7and if you're anything like us you can then do fun things like work out how to drive from where you are to Karogoto - it's only 6,774 miles from the roastery via the Trans-Sahara Highway! Sounds like an incredible road trip.