The Coffee Date at Fairview Coffee Estate
The inaugural coffee festival in Kenya dubbed #KahawaFestival was held in Nairobi’s Fairview Coffee Estate on 1st October 2016. This day commemorates the International Coffee Day; a day that celebrates coffee growers and coffee as a healthy and delicious beverage. The festival not only turned out to be a full day coffee date learning the intricacies of growing and processing coffee, but also exploring the attractions at the Fairview Coffee Estate. Located in Kiambu, off Kiambu Road opposite Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) follow Mawara Gate to access the farm. The 100 acres estate under coffee is renowned to produce high quality Arabica coffee for close to a century.
Upon arrival, we spotted a black headed heron forging on the shores of the dam and a little grebes swimming under the mid-morning sun. We walked along a path on the lush green lawns and enjoyed the beautiful blooming flowers and music playing the distant.
As we walked towards a few exhibition stands; we found an Ethiopian lady brewing traditional Yegre Chefe Coffee. She offered and couldn’t resist taking a sip of the coffee that gave us the much needed kick to start off the Farm to Cup tour within the Coffee Estate.
Our tour started with the history of the farm where the manager narrated that the Estate has changed hands from Mrs. Eveline Poy to Fairview Estates (1924), Mr. Oliver Tait (1926), Loresho and Kiora Plantations (1962), Ngoru Enterprises Ltd., (now Fairview Estate, 1978). For almost four decades the estate has been owned by former Kenyan Ambassador to the USA, Amb. Leonard Oliver Kibinge and his family. The manager explained that under the prudent management of Coffee Marketing Services (CMS), the land continues to yield coffee that is characteristic of Kenya’s finest quality that has a pointed acidity, full body and unique flavour.
Our guide began by stating that Kenya is renowned for its Arabica coffee that is grown on rich volcanic soils found on the highlands between 1400 to 2000 meters above sea level. He delved into the intricacies of the right pH conditions needed for the best coffee to be grown and produced. He further explained that the soil needs to rest, where they monitor the soil pH (hydrogen in the soil), add manure and fertilizer onto the soil to prepare for the next harvest. Our guide emphasized that since the early 1900’s, Fairview Estate’s fertile soils have continued to produce high quality coffee.
Our manager explained that they rejuvenate an old tree by cutting off some branches on the stump and also use an Integrated Pest Management System. He elaborated that by opening a tree through pruning a few branches allows penetration of light and free air movement; this reduces the chances of having some pests that can survive in such an environment.
Through cultural control measures, they engage in a process called cut raising where they make sure that no branch touches the ground and does not become a bridge for pests. They also use agricultural lime that is used to emirate the soil and raise the pH from 5 to 6 pH for proper absorption of nutrients, which is done after soil testing.
He stated that the average production per tree is around 1.5 kilos per tree for green coffee; and annually the production of a tree is between 1,800 to 2,000 kilos per green coffee tree per hectare, the coffee estate has continued to use holistic coffee production methods.
Once the berries are ready, they are hand picked by workers in the farm. They are sorted by hand and thereafter pulped that involves, soaking them in water which aids in removing the red cover from the seeds; the seeds are then fermented, washed, sun-dried and the pulp is later used as manure due to its rich potassium content.
The beans undergone the most rigorous and exacting of grading routines to select the very best Fairview Estate has to offer. Once milled, sixty percent of early and late crop beans are sold to direct buyers overseas and to tourists on-farm. The remaining forty present is bagged and sent to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange for auction under the Fairview Coffee Brand name. Buyers then ship the coffee across the world to be roasted, ground, brewed and enjoyed by the world’s most discerning coffee drinkers.
It is an established fact that the finest Arabica coffee in the world is grown in Kenya. After the tour we went for coffee tasting and many people described it to be medium bodied with a winey, intense flavour, and a pleasant aroma with notes of cocoa and a crisp acidity.
Later in the afternoon we walked to the waterfall which was used to generate electricity for the Coffee Estate and its workers. We enjoyed interacting with the workers families who cheerfully greeted us as we walked along the periphery of their homesteads as we headed out to the main entrance for our onward departure.
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