Friday, March 11, 2011

Coffee anyone?

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the frustrating aspects of Kenya (for coffee lovers anyway) is that here in the Central Highlands region, we are literally surrounded by coffee plantations, yet you cannot get a fresh cup of brewed coffee - as tea is the drink of choice.

So, when faced with a daunting challenge, you have to go right to the source, right? One of our CSC project contacts is the local postmaster here in Nyeri – a tireless professional and overall nice guy. He agreed to introduce us to one of the local plantations - so we could look around, talk to the proprietors and maybe even sample some of the product.

Thanks to our contacts, we were actually able to visit operations for both coffee and tea – both huge natural cash crops for Kenya. The bonus being this was both project related and fun – as we got to see firsthand how two of the primary local businesses operate. Both were fascinating – we first visited Gathaitha tea company, one of the biggest producers in Kenya. We saw the production process from beginning to end – from withering and drying, to cutting and fermenting, packing and shipping. Our Italian colleague Francesco, (a connoisseur of these things from the home country) of course tried his hand at the tasting process.

Then it was off to Central Kenya Coffee Mills, a Kenyan leader in production and enablement of co-op growers. We toured the fields and plants, and saw the operation for processing and shipping to Nairobi. That is where the beans are sold at auction to one of many worldwide producers like Starbucks. Interestingly, both tea and coffee work in this way in Kenya - with the auction market dictating the price and demand. Then it was off to the tasting room, which smelled of pure heaven. We were treated to some of the freshest and most delicious coffee in the world.

“Molto bene!”, as Francisco would say...


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