The story of Kenyan coffee begins at the soil. The iron-rich volcanic soils of the central highlands have been producing high-quality coffee for many years. Fed by the Riara river, Fairview Coffee Estate is a beautiful estate in Kiambu. The farm opened its doors to tourists to visit and to learn more about coffee. The estate’s ownership has been changing hands for over 80 years but they have always applied holistic methods while farming their coffee.
Meet the farm’s Coffee Promotions Expert, eloquent and very knowledgeable in matters concerning coffee. Upon arrival at the farm, you will be given some water bottles in preparation for a lot of walking in the picturesque with lush gardens and a myriad of beautiful flowers.
Start your way to the plantations and get to see the Arabica coffee plant. The farm 44 Hectares, is divided into plantation blocks. You may see a white ash-like substance sprinkled on the soil and agricultural lime that balances the pH of the soil. The coffee plant is a very hardy plant and the plants here were bout 250-300 years old. One plant of coffee demands so much care and because the plant is very bushy, they have to keep pruning and even cutting off the shoots and removing extra leaves to ensure that the plant has some vigour and it produces big beans. Only two to three stalks/stems should be left and after some time they are cut giving way to younger, more rigorous ones. They also use the least amount of chemicals. They use the contact method of applying pesticides which involves applying the pesticide to the affected leaves and they ensure none of the chemicals goes to the fruits. You will be interested in organic farming and impressed that this farm has excelled on this. They have many farmers who work on the property during harvesting and they only pick the ripe red berries. It would be hard to use machine harvesting because machines harm the plant and they cannot differentiate between ripe and unripe berries. Most workers are women and the company has a nursery school for the women with small babies to take them as they work on the farm.
You’ll try harvesting, the berries which will be pulped to remove the skins. The skins are then taken to a compost pit and used as manure so that they can recycle the nutrients back to the coffee plant. Each berry has two beans and each bean has a hard protective husk. The coffee beans are graded in size and weight, and they are fermented and washed. They are then graded for a second time. They are soaked in tanks to improve the quality and this process goes on for 16 hours. They are dried on tables depending on their grades and hand-sorted to remove ‘bad’ beans. They are then husked and milled. Some of the coffee is sent to private buyers, exports and the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
After learning so much in the field, you will be led to the coffee lab where blended, roasted and ground coffee is tasted (very similar to wine tasting) under the expert guidance of the barrister of the estate. Soon you will then assemble at the beautiful lawns outside the house to have coffee, fruit and snacks. Do not think the trip is over, but you still have a long way to go now that you replenished your energy. You’ll hike, walk into the forest, walk through a eucalyptus plantation, dip our feet into the river, visit a great waterfall, walk through a banana farm, visit a field of cows, bird watching, go to the farm’s dam… There is so much to do. On return, you have a chance to buy the finest blend and branded Fairview Coffee. The coffee comes in the prettiest African print bag.
Tips for the Trip
Carry comfortable shoes.
Carry light clothing (depending on prevailing weather).
Carry enough snacks/ water – but they will give you snacks, coffee, water and fruit.
Carry money to buy extra bags of coffee.