Kenya is home to some of the best coffee in the world, and we wanted to see how it ends up in our coffee cup, so we decided to visit the Fairview Coffee Estate. This Estate is located in Kiambu, literally on the outskirts of Nairobi, and a 10 minute drive from Runda.
Getting there was easy enough as the road is smooth tarmac and once there, we were met by the effervescent Millicent Wanderwa and her colleague George Mburu. Together, they led us to the coffee plantation…the start of it all.
Loving the taste of coffee as I do (it is my weekly indulgence in the fashionable cafes that seem to have sprung up everywhere in the city), I thought I knew quite a bit about coffee…not so! Here I learnt that Kenya is a producer of Arabica coffee – the higher altitudes that this species prefers, allows it to grow slower, so giving us a more flavorful and aromatic coffee. Also did you know coffee is actually a fruit? It forms delicate white jasmine-type flowers which last for about a day, giving rise to the fruit, which is red and round, much like cherries.
Once the ‘cherries’ are ripe, they are picked by hand and taken to the in house factory. .. it seemed that the picking season was currently ongoing, though we arrived quite late in the day to catch this.
So the real prize, is the seed inside the ‘cherry’ – the twin coffee bean. However once the ‘cherries’ are squeezed and the seeds are removed, these are not the coffee beans we are used to ….not at all!! These coffee beans are white in colour and are coated with a sticky substance.
The next part of the process involves washing the seeds, grading them according to weight and then drying them which is done out in the open.
All this was explained to us by George, who has been with the farm for quite a while and is very learned and experienced in all things coffee. After the coffee is dried, it is then roasted, giving us the typical brown coffee bean that we all know and love.
The next stop was the Liquoring Room, where we were able to see the coffee beans put through a grinder to get the ground coffee. We tasted the AA grade coffee (which is the best) as well as the buni coffee (lowest grade) and discussed the various coffees on the market, like dark roast, medium roast, light roast and what goes into coffees like espressos, cappuccinos and lattes.
I had always believed that the dark roast was the best as it was roasted longer and so had the more intense flavor…again I found out this was not true. The dark roast has the least flavor (but is also less acidic) while the light roast was the most flavorful but also the most acidic. The medium roast, would be the one to go for, with a balance of flavor and acidity……now I can make better decisions during my weekly coffee sessions. Also espressos are mainly made from dark roast, which is why they need to be so intense.
Now came the fun part.. enjoying a cup of coffee in the beautiful gardens of the farm. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot, so we could enjoy that steaming cup of coffee. Of course, they served us the AA grade coffee, with delicious cookies….it was all so yummy.
After the coffee, they took us down to the waterfall where I almost slid into the water as the ground was quite slippery, and then to their lake surrounded, by extensive gardens which they hire out for weddings and parties.
It was with great reluctance that we said goodbye to Millicent and George…the farm is looking into setting up some rooms so one can stay overnight and we promised to be back for this. We left them..and drove back to the city, dreaming of espressos, cappuccinos and mochas.