Tasting Notes: apricot, blackcurrant, caramel
Produced by: Boyce Harris Region: Thika
Variety: French Mission, Ruiru 11, Batian, & SL14 & 28
Altitude: 1524 masl
Our standout Kenya coffee for 2021. The five mixed varieties in this lot creates a beautiful complex and balanced cup. Lower in acidity than most Kenyan coffee. Definitely one to try before it sells out!
BACKGROUND AND LOCATION
Chania and Oreti Estates are the only large-medium scale, private coffee plantations remaining in Kenya that are owned and managed by the descendants of the original pioneer farmers. Allen Charles Harries (b.1850) arrived in Kenya from South Africa in 1904. After a thorough recce of the country he established Karamaini Estate in an area that was to become Thika. It took him two days to cover the 30-mile journey from Nairobi using donkey carts and porters.His third son AldreIvan Rule Harries (Ivan; b.1881) remained in South Africa and helped support his father financially, eventually joining him in 1912. In 1926 Ivan moved to Chania Estate. This was a mixed farm on the Chania River, which held small areas of coffee. Here Ivan set about discovering what could be farmed successfully, trying his hand at cattle, sisal and pineapples, whilst slowly increasing the total area of coffee. He also bought adjacent, small farms to create the Estate as it is today and in the early 1950s, based on his initials, he named his enterprise A.I.R. Harries & Son Ltd. Ivan’s son Peter Allen Harries (b.1921) completed his studies in New Zealand and joined his father in 1946. He and his wife Rowena (a New Zealander) bought a piece of land five miles above Chania on the same ridge running down from the Aberdare Mountains. They named this Oreti Estate (a Maori name meaning a place of danger and raw beauty) and established a mixed farm of pineapples and coffee, and later macadamia nuts. Peter inherited the running of both farms in the late 1950s when his father passed away. Pineapples, livestock and macadamia each have their own story, but coffee became the focus of the farming operations. When Peter died unexpectedly in 1983, his eldest child and latterly only surviving son David Hugh Allen Harries (b.1947) stepped in to continue the family legacy. David’s nephew Boyce Marquis Allen Harries (b.1976) came to join him in 2004, living in Peter’s old home on Oreti. Following David’s retirement in 2013 Boyce took over the running of both estates, and the family business of A.I.R. Harries & Son Ltd.
CHANIA ORETI ESTATE BACKGROUND
The main variety of Arabica coffee planted on Chania Estate was one of the original varieties reintroduced to East Africa called French Mission. We have a total of 180 acres of coffee on Chania of which 95 are French Mission. The remainder consists of Ruiru 11 (CBD resistant), K7 (Rust resistant), SL28 (susceptible to disease but recognised for cup quality), SL 34 and the new variety Batian. Oreti is a small Estate by today’s standards, at only 90 acres. Here, a less commonly known variety called SL 34 is grown alongside SL 28. Although highly susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease, Peter Harries decided to keep the 43 acres of SL 34 he planted in 1961. In his opinion the quality of coffee this variety produced was uniquely superior to SL 28, primarily due to the fact that its rounder bean allowed a more even roast and therefore a better ‘cup’. The areas of planted coffee are generally referred to as blocks. All our blocks are named after events, things or people in the area at the time they were planted. For example; one block of French Mission coffee is called ‘Kamonde’ by the farm workers because the original settler farmer who planted the coffee there pre- 1926 had very few teeth and in the local Kikuyu language, ‘Kamonde’ means toothless one! Another block of coffee is called ‘Mukuyu’, named after the tree that was standing there before the coffee was planted, and still stands there today. The SL 24 coffee at Oreti is mainly in the block referred to as ‘Muhuti’. This is the Kikuyu name for a particular species of tree found growing next to the coffee along the steep valley where the Chania River flows. This tree is more commonly known as the ‘Red Hot Poker Tree’ (Erythrina Abyssinica) whose bright red spiky flowers stand out almost as vividly as the Flame Tree for which Thika was made famous by Elspeth Huxley in her book ‘The Flame Trees of Thika’.
Harvesting coffee is all done carefully and deliberately by hand, selecting only the ripe, red cherries and taking care not to damage any new growth. We do our own processing on the farms with the majority of our coffee beans going through ‘wet processing’. From the farms the dry, ‘parchment coffee’ is transported to a coffee mill for hulling, polishing, grading and bagging for auction.
Women are generally considered more dexterous at harvesting than men but the work is slow and tiring and takes a considerable amount of dedication. The farms have a permanent labour force of 40 people. The majority are housed on the Estates and several are families into their second and third generation as employees. During busy periods seasonal and daily labour are enrolled as required. This can be as many as 300 people, all who live locally and many of whom are part of the extended family of permanent employees. Harvesting of ripe coffee is performed on a task rate basis based on volume. All employees have freedom of association, and there is a self-elected workers committee who meet monthly to raise and discuss social, welfare, safety and health matters. The farms employ a nursery school teacher, and the Social Hall at Chania, equipped with darts board and television, doubles as a nursery school during the day. More recently we built a ‘homework room’ to provide a place with electric light at night for the older children of our employees to study. Football and Volleyball are also activities supported by the company. We supply water to the employees from boreholes instead of river water. Based on merit we make an effort to support local projects through the provision of practical aid; e.g. materials for building, transportation, labour, machinery, etc. The company has donated 50 acres of land to the Thika Municipal Council and co-founded the Wabeni Technical Institute on this site. This is an institution intended for the education of underprivileged children in practical skills that can help them make a living; e.g. dressing making, motor mechanics, carpentry. Boyce Harries is a member of the board of Directors. The name “Wabeni” is a local derivation of the Kiswahili ‘wa Ivan(i)’ … “waiveni” … which means ‘belonging to Ivan!
Our constant endeavour is to produce a top grade Arabica coffee; better beans with improved flavour, which when roasted will, like a good wine, have a definitive, richer, fuller flavour, a medium body and medium acidity. Debes of freshly picked coffee are placed at the hopper and are flushed into the pulper. The pulper discs take off the outer skin and the cherry is carried by water to soak in tanks.We do our own processing on the farms with the majority of our coffee beans going through ‘wet processing’. From the farms the dry, ‘parchment coffee’ is transported to a coffee mill for hulling, polishing, grading and bagging for auction. Sometimes our buyers want “Naturals”. Unlike the regular processing of coffee where outer layers are removed, these beans have been washed in their skins and are being transferred to ‘beds’ for sun drying.