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NLH COFFEE ROASTERS

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A Tour of Kenyan Coffee Farm.

This place is Magical!

We were Picked up from our hotel in Nairobi at 08:00 Hours and departed for the coffee tour by road, the farm is approximately 8 kilometers from Nairobi, and it is a 54-Acre Piece of Private Land.

Paradise lost is a well managed resort with lots of fun and adventure besides the coffee plantation and manufacturing.

The farm is home to 2.5 years Old Stone Age caves, trees thought to be hundreds of years old while the river reeds have a long story to tell. First you enjoy the nature trails amid bird watching, horse riding, and camel riding, feeding Masai ostrich, fishing and boat riding , then head to the coffee farms.

We were met by our tour guide Paul,who walked us through the entire process from how coffee is planted in the seed bed to the plantation.

After this coffee manager gave us a chance to process our own coffee which we packed and carried some back home branded with Kenya label at a reasonable fee. This was a wonderful Experience.

Coffee farm

We saw the picking process of coffee from the farms followed by a tour of the Local coffee factory.

Kenya Coffee harvesting is normally carried out during the dry seasons when the cherries are bright, glossy, and firm. Ripe cherries are handpicked. This is a labor intensive exercise and involves most of the members of a family and hired labor. Transportation to the Factories is by Ox-drawn carts, pick-up vehicles, and sometimes lorries. This is done immediately after harvesting.

PROCESSING COFFEE

1.Cherry Sorting

The cherry is sorted out before pulping. This helps to remove the immature, diseased, insect damaged and dry berries as well as the leaves, twigs and other foreign matter. The sorted out berries are processed by the dry method or wet method.

Processing: The Wet Method of Processing is used in most Kenyan coffee

2. Pulping

In wet method processing, the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry after harvesting and the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. There are several actual steps involved.

First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine where the skin and pulp is separated from the bean.Pulping is the mechanical removal of the pulp from the cherry to have parchment coffee.

The pulp is washed away with water, usually to be dried and used as mulch. The beans are separated by weight as they are conveyed through water channels, the lighter beans floating to the top, while the heavier, ripe beans sink to the bottom.

Next they are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.

After pulping, the coffee is graded into three grades 1,2 and lights. This is done by density and size of the coffee. Parchment 1 is conveyed to the fermentation tanks while grade 2 and lights are further processed again through another smaller pulper called a re-passer.

After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on a combination of factors -- such as the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude -- they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. The purpose of this process is to remove the slick layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment; while resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes will cause this layer to dissolve. When fermentation is complete the beans will feel rough, rather than slick, to the touch. At that precise moment, the beans are rinsed by being sent through additional water channels. They are then ready for drying.

3. Drying the Beans

If the beans have been processed by the wet method, the pulped and fermented beans must now be dried to approximately 11 percent moisture to properly prepare them for storage. These beans, still encased inside the parchment envelope (the endocarp), can be sun dried by spreading them on drying tables or floors, where they are turned regularly, or they can be machine dried in large tumblers. Once dried, these beans, referred to as 'parchment coffee,' are warehoused in sisal or jute bags until they are readied for export.  

4. Milling the Beans

Before it is exported, parchment coffee is processed in the following manner:

I)Hulling

Machines are used to remove the parchment layer (endocarp) from wet processed coffee. Hulling dry processed coffee refers to removing the entire dried husk -- the exocarp, mesocarp & endocarp -- of the dried cherries.

II)Polishing

This is an optional process in which any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed in a polishing machine. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished ones, in reality there is little difference between the two.

5. Grading & sorting

Before being exported, the coffee beans will be even more precisely sorted by size and weight. They will also be closely evaluated for color flaws or other imperfections.

Typically, the bean size is represented on a scale of 10 to 20. The number represents the size of a round hole's diameter in terms of 1/64's of an inch. A number 10 bean would be the approximate size of a hole in a diameter of 10/64 of an inch and a number 15 bean, 15/64 of an inch. Beans are sized by being passed through a series of different sized screens. They are also sorted pneumatically by using an air jet to separate heavy from light beans.

Next defective beans are removed. Though this process can be accomplished by sophisticated machines, in many countries, it is done by hand while the beans move along an electronic conveyor belt. Beans of unsatisfactory size, color, or that are otherwise unacceptable, are removed. This might include over-fermented beans, those with insect damage or that are unhulled. In many countries, this process is done both by machine and hand, insuring that only the finest quality coffee beans are exported

After milling, the coffee beans are assigned a grade based on characteristics of the bean, most notably size. While the large bean size is considered by many to be a sign of quality, it is important to note that it is but one of many factors in determining high quality coffee. While there are published standards for the grading coffee, it is not an exact process. The Coffee Board of Kenya refers to grading as "an art." The following are coffee grades which may be assigned to Kenyan coffee :

•PB - Pea berry beans. About 10 percent of Kenyan coffee falls into this category.

•AA - While it may be widely known as a type of Kenya coffee, Kenya AA is actually a grade of coffee. Beans with a screen size of 7.2 millimeters (approximately 18/64 of an inch and often referred to as a screen size of 18) are assigned the grade AA.

This grade of coffee often receives a higher price than other grades. Kenya is, without a doubt, the capital of coffee excellence. The AA in the title denotes the high grade of this bean. This legendary coffee is known for its strong body, winey flavor and pronounced acidity - it will light up your palette with bright notes. Grown on the long slopes of Mount Kenya, Kenya AA is one of the smoothest coffees available.

6. Exporting the Beans

The milled beans, now referred to as 'green coffee,' are ready to be loaded onto ships for transport to the importing country. Green coffee is shipped in either jute or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers, or it is bulk shipped inside plastic-lined containers. Approximately seven million tons of green coffee is produced worldwide each year.

7. Tasting the Coffee

At every stage of its production, coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste. This process is referred to as 'cupping' and usually takes place in a room specifically designed to facilitate the process. First, the taster -- usually called the cupper -- carefully evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality. The beans are then roasted in a small laboratory roaster, immediately ground and infused in boiling water, the temperature of which is carefully controlled. The cupper "noses" the brew to experience its aroma, an integral step in the evaluation of the coffee's quality. After letting the coffee rest for several minutes, the cupper "breaks the crust" by pushing aside the grounds at the top of the cup. Again the coffee is nosed before the tasting begins.

To taste the coffee, the cupper "slurps" a spoonful with a quick inhalation. The objective is to spray the coffee evenly over the cupper's taste buds, and then "weigh" it before spitting it out. Samples from a variety of batches and different beans are tasted daily. Coffees are not only analyzed this way for their inherent characteristics and flaws, but also for the purpose of blending different beans or determining the proper roast. An expert cupper can taste hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them.

8. Roasting the Coffee

Roasting transforms green coffee into the aromatic brown beans that we purchase, either whole or already ground, in our favorite stores. Most roasting machines maintain a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning and when they reach an internal temperature of about 400 degrees, they begin to turn brown and the caffeol, or oil, locked inside the beans begins to emerge.

This process, called pyrolysis is at the heart of roasting. It is what produces the flavor and aroma of the coffee we drink. When the beans are removed from the roaster, they are immediately cooled either by air or water. Roasting is generally performed in the importing countries because freshly roasted beans must reach the consumer as quickly as possible.

9. Grinding Coffee

The objective of a proper grind is to get the most flavor in a cup of coffee. How coarse or fine the coffee is ground depends on the method by which the coffee is to be brewed. Generally, the finer the grind the more quickly the coffee should be prepared. That is why coffee ground for use in an espresso machine is much finer than coffee which will be brewed in a drip system.

10. Brewing Coffee

Before you brew your coffee, take a moment to look carefully at the beans. Smell their aroma. Think of the many processes that these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-picked and sorted in their origin country. Consider the long way they have traveled to your kitchen. Prepare your coffee thoughtfully and enjoy it with pleasure. Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup!

GEOGRAPGHY

The influence of geography on the flavor of a coffee bean is profound. All coffee grows in the tropics, but the altitude at which it is grown contributes significantly to a coffee’s taste profile. Mountainous regions of the Coffee Belt, a tropical band extending approximately 30º north and south of the equator, produces the world’s truly great Arabica coffees.

High elevations above 3,000 feet to 6,000 feet and beyond provide ideal growing conditions for the coffee tree: a frost-free climate averaging 60-70º F year-round, moderate rainfall of about 80 inches, and abundant sunshine. Cooler mountain temperatures provide a slower growth cycle for the coffee tree which prolongs bean development. This longer maturation process imbues the coffee bean with more complex sugars, yielding deeper, more interesting flavors. Better drainage at high elevations also reduces the amount of water in the fruit resulting in a further concentration of flavors. The soil in which the finest Arabica coffees are grown is extremely fertile, and often volcanic. 

The truly stunning coffees are grown between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.

However, according to coffee Review, most Kenyan Coffee is from Mt. Kenya near Nairobi and Mt Elgon on the Western Border with Uganda.The slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro have produced some of the finest Kenyan pea-berry coffee. The high altitude, warm climate and fertile soils, make these regions well suited for producing Arabica coffee.

Generally the central highlands of Kenya produce some of the most complex and subtly distinctive coffees in the world. There are a few other coffee origins/types that may be more distinctive, meaning more different from the sensory norm for coffee:

The best Kenya’s display a character that is distinctive and recognizable in its intense but sweet acidity and pungent fruit notes (grapefruit, strawberry, black currant). In some, for example, a wine-like nuance emerges; in others a floral note that can range from lush and lilyish to crisp and lavender-like.

Additionally, many Kenyan coffees are considered to have a winey, acidy taste to them

KENYA TEA FARM TOUR.

Day 2 This was on a Tuesday Dec 17th. @

Kiambethu Tea Farm Tour in Limuru ( near Nairobi) –

Pick up time 10.00am from the Hotel

Tours start off at 11:00 am from the main house. Marcus and Fiona welcome you with some homemade biscuits (yum!) and of course tea, before regaling tales of the farm and the tea making process. Fiona Goes through a detailed narration of the Tea Development In Kenya. We should be able to share some of the details later.

The gardens around the home are lovely and well worth a stroll, especially to catch

glimpses of the resident Colobus monkeys! Also included in the tour is a walk through the indigenous forest that is still preserved (most was cleared for the tea farms). The guide is highly entertaining and comical!

The tour ends with a relaxed lunch. Again most of the produce is locally sourced and when making reservations inform them of any dietary requirements! The veggie options they had made was fantastic. Lunch is a 3 course affair with complementary beverages - wine, beers, sherry, soft drinks and of course teas and coffee

The Tea Industry in Kenya is unique in that it is comprised of two distinct sectors; the Plantation or large scale sector and the small holder sector. The Plantation sector is owned by large scale tea producers and companies while the small holders sector is by small scale growers. The small holder sector has registered more than half a million growers who are located across tea growing areas in the country. The small holder sector factories are managed by Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd (KTDA).

Tea Growing in Kenya

The tea growing regions in Kenya are endowed with the ideal climate for tea. Tropical, volcanic red soils and well distributed rainfall ranging between 1200mm to 1400mm per annum that alternates with long sunny days; which attribute to these favorable conditions. Production goes on all round the year with two main peak seasons of high crop between March and June and October and December which coincide with the rain seasons. Kenya tea is grown free of agrochemicals because the ideal environment in which the tea is grown acts as a natural deterrent to pests’ infestation and diseases attack; This natural conditions guarantees the consumer the safest and most refreshing health drink.

Tea Growing Regions

The main tea growing areas in Kenya are situated in and around the highland areas on both sides of the Great Rift Valley; and astride the Equator within altitudes of between 1500 metres and 2700 metres above the sea level. These regions include the areas around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares escarpments , the Nyambene hills in the Central Kenya , the Mau escarpment , Kericho Highlands, Nandi and Kisii Highlands and the the Cherangani Hills.

Areas; Around Mt. Kenya, Aberdares, Kericho, Nandi and Kisii Highlands.

Planting Materials

Clonal planting materials are developed through scientific innovations by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) which have made vegetative propagation possible resulting in high yielding well adapted varieties. The selection of planting materials is enhanced by mapping the genetic and environmental conditions; where genotype – environment interaction trials are carried out as useful selection criteria for determining clonal genetic potential and adaptation so as to match the clones to specific areas where productivity can be maximized. The developed clones are subjected to environmental response tests are various representative sites. So far the TRFK has developed about 50 varieties.

History of our Single Origin Tea

NLH Coffee and Tea Co. is supplied by Kenya Tea Development Agency. (KTDA) http://www.ktdateas.com/

Most of the brand-named tea in our local supermarket are commercially produced and are blended loose leaf tea or tea bags containing leaves sourced from as many as thirty different countries around the Globe. NLH Coffee and Tea carries Single origin Specialty teas.

What is Tea and Where Does it Come From?

Here are some basics: 

All tea comes from the tropical plant known as Camellia sinensis.

The tea plant grows best in warm climate with long sunlit days, cool nights and an abundance of rainfall. Tea plants grow at altitudes ranging from sea level to 7,000 feet and on latitudes as far north as Turkey in the mid-east and as far south as Argentina in South America.

Tea is indigenous to China, Tibet. It was discovered more than 5000 years ago by an emperor Shen Nung in China. and northern India, though it is cultivated in many other countries across the globe, including Sri Lanka, Japan, Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Argentina, Tanzania, Taiwan, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. 

The most complex teas grow at higher altitudes and many bushes can be cultivated for over 100 years. Tea bushes cover about six million acres of the earth and are harvested every week during the almost year-long growing season.

All the different teas on the market of teas es of tea come from the same Camellia sinensis bush; however the method in which they are processed varies. It is this variation in processing methods that give us the main classifications and varieties of tea.

Some teas are simply steamed after plucking, while others are gently bruised to change the leaves chemistry. Other teas are allowed to ferment at varying levels, some for a long period of time.  

The first two leaves and a buds of the tea bush are hand plucked and harvested. then wither- Oxidized -fermented and dried. They can then be turned into different types of tea. e.g White, green Oolongs, Black and Yellow.

Although not indigenous to the Africa continent, in little more than a century tea has become an important cash crop for East African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Kenya is one of Africa's oldest tea-producing countries and it's the world’s 3rd largest tea producing nation in the world. However It's the world's largest exporter with a wide variety of tea flavors. China and India the first and second producers consume most of their produce. 

The earliest reference to tea growing dates back over a hundred years to 1903. It is believed that a British settler living in Kenya's western highlands imported the first seedlings from India and planted them on a two-acre farm on an experimental basis.

However commercialization of the tea started in 1924 and since then, Kenya can boast itself as major producer of black tea.

The main growing Kenyan districts are situated in or around the highland areas on either side of the Great Rift Valley at altitudes ranging from 1500 to 2,700 metres above sea level. Kericho region, in particular, hosts Most of the large-scale tea plantations. More tea farming is in the highlands east of the Rift Valley as well as in central Kenya.

Tea production is split between large estates operated by companies such as Unilever and James Finlay, and a well-developed smallholder sector represented by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) our main supplier. This comprises almost 500,000 smallholder farmers, who provide green leaf to their local factories and receive a share of the profits.

Kenya is renowned for bright golden CTC teas, but a small number of factories in both the estate sector and the KTDA have now started to make specialty large leaf teas using the traditional ("orthodox") rolling method.

During recent years innovative tea makers have been adapting traditional methods from India and China to develop their own unique African specialty teas.

Whether it is a light golden tea from Rwanda, strong tea from Mount Kenya, mild tea from Uganda, green tea from Tanzania, or even white tea from Malawi, the range of teas in Africa is wider than you might think and increasing all the time.

Most of this Teas are very unique. This varieties are not only said to be high in antioxidants but are also Organically grown in some of the most fertile soils in habitats that are rich in biodiversity and are ecologically stable.

They are grown near the equator, where the year-round growing season ensures consistency in product quality. Most of this lands are high altitudes areas , Providing a cooler and so less prone to problems with pests and plant diseases than lower altitudes areas.

Generally High-grown teas are of higher quality than low-grown teas. No pesticides are used in production, and good agricultural practices have led to higher productivity per acre than in many traditional tea-growing countries.

Because tea is a relative newcomer to the continent; many tea-growing areas have modern tea factories and use cost-effective and efficient tea manufacturing technologies.

Research is under way, particularly in Kenya, to develop varieties of tea with higher levels of desired bioactive substances such as catechins, theobromines, and anthocyanins as well as lower levels of caffeine. African tea estates are also involved in developing environmentally sound growing techniques and renewable energy production. The Development of Purple Tea is such one successful story in

KENYA TEA FARM TOUR.

3rd Day Wednesday Dec 18th 2013.

On our previous day talk with [email protected] the Kiambethu Tea Farm Tour in Limuru ( near Nairobi); she recommended that instead of making the trip to Kericho for the tea plantations and Mombasa for the tea Auctions and Brokers, we would be better served visiting KTDA (Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd ) It’s the Leading Management agency for the small scale tea farmers in Kenya, Africa. KTDA was formed on the privatization of Kenya Tea Development Authority June 2000 to provide effective Management services to the tea sector for efficient production, processing and marketing of high quality tea. And investing in related profitable ventures for the benefit of shareholders and other stake holders. 

We were met by Vincent Mwing, The Quality Assurance & New Product Development Manager. A very smart and genuinely nice person. We were quickly served with a delicious cup of Hot Milk Tea. Simply the best cup of tea we had had.

Meanwhile he was giving us a short preview on tea growing in Kenya. The main tea growing areas in Kenya are situated in and around the highland areas on both sides of the Great Rift Valley; and astride the Equator within altitudes of between 1500 metres and 2700 metres above the sea level. These regions include the areas around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares escarpments , the Nyambene hills in the Central Kenya , the Mau escarpment , Kericho Highlands, Nandi and Kisii Highlands and the the Cherangani Hills.

We were then walked through the Product research and development department where we were introduced to a variety of teas Including : Black, white, purple Oolong and Orthodox teas. Kenya is the Third largest tea producer but the world’s largest Exporter. China and India consume most of their own tea.

We learnt that most of the Kenyan Tea is organically produced. The volcanic soils in this areas provide a rich soil that does not require much to nourish the tea plant. Organic tea is grown following strict rules of organic cultivation, using only natural elements in the treatment of the soil, fertilization process and providing natural light instead of any artificial light source. It makes no use whatsoever of destructive chemicals, preferring to go the natural way and encouraging Nature to provide for better crop cultivation. Chemicals are known to destroy not only the land where they are used, but also the surrounding ecosystem.

They use natural fertilizers such as compost, natural organic matter and plants provide all the nutrients and elements needed by the soil to grow better crops. Tea bushes are planted - from 1 metre to 1.5 metres apart - to follow the natural contours of the landscape, sometimes growing on specially prepared terraces to help irrigation and to prevent erosion..

We took samples of the different teas and steeped as recommend. At 185˚F for 3-4 minutes, to bring out the Theaflavins in the catechins .

Tea cupping is a process of tasting and evaluating the quality of loose leaf tea. If you are new to this experience, it can appear comic almost laughable… you know the hissing sound and twitching of the mandible and tongue twisting to reach the right palates.. its something...but it's a serious venture. It is a combination of art and science that is used by tea lovers throughout the world to maintain tea quality and tea drinking satisfaction. It also helps to determine quality, taste, aroma, briskness, body and color.

Cupping similar teas and comparing them against each other enables one to determine best value when making a purchase.

This process enabled us to select our favorite tea products.

• VARIETY: White Tea- Silver Needle ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions NOTES: The crème de la crème of white teas, is made entirely from downy buds. White tea is made from immature tea leaves that are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened. The tea takes its name from the silver fuzz that still covers the buds, which turns white when the tea is dried.

• VARIETY: White Peony- Kenyan Premium White. (Fermented Hand Rolled) ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions TASTING NOTES: Pure white tea with mellow-sweet notes of fresh hay and accents of honey and nectar. Most common style of traditional white tea and consists of two tea leaves and a bud. Gently processed and withered to an amber-orange infusion with low astringency, very refreshing mouthfeel and a mild flavor.

• VARIETY: Royal Purple Tea ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions Note: The new purple variety, a whole leaf tea made from two leaves and the bud .It has higher medicinal properties than green and black tea. Purple tea is a rare variety of tea grown around Mt Kenya region in very selective gardens. It’s known to contain exceptionally high levels of anthocyanins and catechins.-which means it has super high levels of antioxidants. Purple tea is only grown in Kenya with limited availability worldwide.

• VARIETY: Black ( CTC) Safari Pure: Pekoe fanning and Broken Pekoes (PFI,BP1)ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions NOTES: Full bodied and robust black tea. It’s neater and more even than the pekoe, it is curly and free of stalk and flaky leaves, commands a higher price due to its brighter and cleaner liquors. Add cream and sugar for a full breakfast tea.

• VARIETY: Black (CTC) KATEPA TEA BAGS (Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning(BOPF)ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions NOTES: Full bodied and robust black tea in a tea bag. Has rapid brewing properties and gives a good strong flavor and color liquors. Add cream and sugar for a full breakfast tea.

• VARIETY: Green Tea - Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP )ORIGIN: Mt Kenya regions NOTES: This is a whole leaf grade that is well twisted and wiry. Green teas are not oxidized. They are withered, immediately steamed to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. They are characterized by a delicate taste, light green color and are very refreshing.

Vincent recommended a follow up trip visit to the Tea Factory- Kangaita Farm in Kirinyaga County, Kerugoya Kenya the next day Thursday. This was to be an exciting visit on Mt. Kenya slopes.