The first coffee bush at Kiriga Estate was planted in approximately 1954 by colonial settlers. At about the same time, less than ten kilometres away along the same Kigio road, a young boy (Aloysius Gakunga, son of the chief for the larger Murang'a county) helped his father – Senior Chief Ndungíu Kagori – plant the first coffee seedling in the area. The area was known as Gaitegi village, Muranga Location 1 (Loco One). A love affair with coffee had been born!
Several years went by and the young boy grew up. He was riding his bicycle along Kigio road and, as he rode past the vast – by now well-established – coffee estates, he promised himself that he would one day own one of them.
He realized this dream in 1976.
The boy, or Mr A. N. Gakunga, sadly passed away in July 2014. By the time of his death, Mr Gakunga had passed his love of coffee and the mantle of Kiriga coffee estate on to Dr Brian Ndungíu Gakunga. Brian was his second child, and the eldest son out of his six children. According to Kikuyu cultural naming systems, Brian is named after Mr Gakungaís' father, who was both his grandfather and his pioneer coffee farmer.
Dr Brian Gakunga is a coffee farmer who is well known in Kenyan coffee circles. He is a founding member and a former long-serving Honorary Secretary of the Kenya Coffee Producers Association, which is a national farmers' organisation that works to promote the economic and social interests of the coffee farmers through active participation in the national and international arena.
Brian is also a former Board Member and Chairman of Transitional Exchange Committee (operationally, he was the then-Chairman of Nairobi Coffee Exchange), where over 90% of all of Kenya's coffee is currently sold. He's also currently the Founding Chairman of Africa Coffee Farmers' Network.
Africa Coffee Farmers' Network represents the interests of coffee farmers, as spelt out in the organisation's core objective of improving the earnings of poor coffee farmers in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty. One way of doing this is by getting direct sales for the farmers.
Kiriga Estate sits between 1,550 and 1,650 metres above sea level. It is approximately five kilometres from Thika town, which is an industrial town in the central province of Kenya. It's four kilometres from Blue Posts hotel, which has the famous Chania and Thika falls. Thika lies 50 kilometres northeast of Nairobi.
Administratively, Kiriga coffee estate is in the Gatanga constituency of Muranga county, and it's separated from Kiambu county by the Chania river.
Kiriga coffee is predominantly SL28 variety (notable for its world-renowned cup quality). The farm has an estimated two hectares of Ruiru 11 variety (which has improved resistance to coffee berry disease and leaf rust); some K7 variety (similar characteristics as SL28, but with better resistance to leaf rust compared to SL28); and a field of Batian too. This coffee consists of a mixture of SL28 and Ruiru 11.
This coffee is something I feel is really exciting and came about in a very cool and delicious way. I've been working with Brian for many years now and every time I fly over to Kenya to spend time with him and visit Kiriga we have a bit of a tradition of going out to eat choma. We sit together and watch football, easy tasty food, drink Export Guinness and talk all things coffee - while we were having 1 of these conversations we got to talking about natural processing.
Traditionally in Kenya, you don't tend to find natural coffee except for Buni which are often old, broken, not so good coffees that are sold cheaply in the markets and really aren't all that wonderful. I said to Brian that to do a natural you process the same red, ripe cherries that he uses for his main washed lots, and he can sell it for more money, and he didn't have to produce a lot of it either. Brian liked the sound of these things and is always up for trying something new so now you have the chance to try the result of our slightly drunken conversation!
This coffee was processed as a very small experiment and we only have 2 sacks of the green coffee available, we (that's me and Brian!) are really interested to hear what you all think as there's potential to do this again on a crop from a future harvest. 2 sacks won't go very far so please try this while you can for a taste of something really rather unique that's come about thanks to a relationship that I really adore.
Does anyone remember those little blackcurrant cheesecakes in a plastic pot? This reminds me of one of those! It’s got a big, tart blackcurrant to it, a little bit of creaminess and then a good helping of caramelised, biscuity sweetness. It’s a super clean natural, without much booziness, but that processing does add a really unusual aftertaste like allspice.
Roast Information Medium-dark - this needs a bit of a push, up to the cusp of second before finish the roast, with maybe a few pops as it cools. It may also run a little hotter than most coffees, so keep a close and careful eye.
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