This was one of my favorite destinations on my recent Kenya trip. The Othaya FCS (farmer co-op society) was second to none. One of the few farmer co-ops that owned and operated their own dry mill. Most of the dry mills were owned by large foreign agriculture companies. Way cool to see 100% locally owned and operated Kenyan coffee competing with the crazy large foreign agricultural companies. A real feel good operation. Ichamama is the local wet-mill the coffee cherries came from, wonderful super caring folks. Coffee in their blood. The Red Cherry program of which these beans come from is the best of the best from Ichamama.
Othaya Farmer Cooperative Society is one of key member societies of the Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE) organization. KCCE is an historic organization of almost 4,000 individual cooperatives. The group was formed in 2009, with the express goal of managing marketing and exporting operations cooperatively, as opposed to contractually with third parties. The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult everywhere in the world, and in Kenya in particular the number of individual margins sliced off an export price before payment reaches the actual farms is many, leaving only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself. And most often this arrives many months after harvest. KCCE, by managing more of the value chain itself, can capture a greater margin on behalf of the farms. The chairman of Mahiga Factory, another Othaya FCS member, happens to also be one of the founding directors of KCCE—so, the participation of Othaya FCS in farmer-forward infrastructure in Kenya is strong.
A great cup from light to dark, but we think best at a solid medium roast. Light roasts will be pretty acidic, medium roasts smooth and balanced, darker roasts potent but bittersweet. This is an excellent classically bright Kenyan; super clean, sweet with good body. One can find all sorts of acidic like notes in this cup ranging from soft fruit to very floral citrus. All the wonderful lighter tones balance with a nice and rich chocolaty undertone, pretty potent, fades into some classic African spice on the tongue (tea like semi-vegetal). Turns pretty dark/bakers chocolate like into the darker roasts. Very fun cup with awesome flavor depth.
Avoid super light roasts for they will be pretty “blasting” with acidity. Also like to avoid super dark roasts with this guy – will cause an awesome cup to turn pretty edgy(bitter). Sweet spot is from a city roast to full city roast – fancy words for a medium roast :-). If you like the bright notes, aim a little lighter. If you don’t like those bright notes make sure to get closer to 2nd crack than 1st. If roasted to match personal taste; a cup almost anyone will love.
Cherry designated for the Red Cherry Program is rigorously sorting for ripeness and consistency upon delivery, and kept separate throughout the entire processing timeline. After acceptance Ichamama depulps and ferments for 27-48 hours depending on ambient conditions (the changing mountain climate, as for many processors, tends to dictate fermentation temperatures, and processing staff are required to check fermentation progress every three hours). After fermentation, the parchment is rinsed and the water replenished, and the clean parchment soaks for an additional 12 hours, after which it is sorted by density and brought to the tables to dry, typically for two to three weeks. After drying is complete the coffee is stored on site and eventually delivered to the Othaya dry mill for grading and a final density sort. The established milling and sorting by grade, or bean size, is a longstanding tradition and positions Kenya coffees well for roasters, by tightly controlling the physical preparation and creating a diversity of profiles from a single processing batch.