Previously known as the Muathe farm named after the family’s matriarch, Ndocha Estate is now owned by siblings and run by Peris Karungongo. The farm has seven permanent workers and casual workers during picking season, varying from from 10 to 12 workers off peak and up to 80 during high season. Ndocha Estate has 4 different ‘blocks’ totalizing 29 hectares with a many as 15,000 coffee trees of traditional varieties.
Kiambu District lies North of the capital Nairobi, between the eastern slopes of the Aberdare ranges and Mt. Kenya, the heartland of traditional coffee growing in Kenya. Well known as another high profile quality coffee growing region in Kenya, many well established small holders and larger Estates produce outstanding coffee in this region
Coffee production in Kenya dates back to the late 1880’s, when is thought to have been brought by the French Missionaries to the Taita Hills area. Introduced into the Kiambu district in 1896, it found a great combination of altitude, soils and temperature that results in the high quality for which Kenyan coffee is known for around the world.
Still today, the biggest coffee growing area spreads from Kiambu, on the outskirts of Nairobi, up to the slopes of Mount Kenya. The Counties in this region also known as Central Kenya – Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Nyeri – have an annual production of around 39,000 metric tons of green coffee, which counts for almost 70% of the national production. Other coffee growing areas are: Machakos (Eastern Kenya), Bungoma (Western Kenya) and Kisii (Nyanza region) but volumes are significantly smaller.
Although patterns may differ from area to area, Kenya is generally known to have two main rainy seasons which dictate two crops. Long rains happen from March to May, while a shorter rainy season happens around October. The dry spells that anticipate those trigger two flowering periods: February/March for the country’s main crop, and September for the early/’fly’ crop. That means coffee will be harvested from September to December for the main crop, and from May up to July for the early crop. While central areas are able to produce and deliver coffee in both seasons, Machakos, for example, is known for producing almost only during early crop.
Soils are volcanic and very rich in organic matter, and the altitude in coffee growing areas ranges from a minimum of 1280m in Embu, Eastern part of Mount Kenya region, to a high of 2300m in Nyeri, on the Western slopes.
Nowadays, approximately 55 % of all coffee production comes from smallholder farms, but that can vary from area to area (Kiambu 14%, Kirinyaga 72%, Machakos 80%). Smallholder farmers are organized in Cooperative Societies, these own the wet mills where farmers deliver ripe cherries. At wet mills (also known as factories) cherries get pulped and ferment for approx. 24 hours. After fermentation, coffee is then soaked in tanks full of water and washed in channels. Still at the washing state, coffee is graded in P1 (heaviest parchment), P2 and lights (floaters); and any remaining cherries are removed and processed separately. Coffee is sun dried on raised tables and drying can take up to 3 weeks. At night and during the hottest periods, parchment is covered so that drying is homogenous. Dry parchment is then delivered to a centralized dry mill to be processed, screened and marketed at the weekly auctions in Nairobi.