Gititu Factory is part of the Aghuti Farmers’ Cooperative Society which includes two other factories: Thageini and Kagumo. This is essentially a cooperative comprised of some 800 smallholder farmers who share a washing station – or ‘factory’ as they are known as in Kenya. During the harvest, member farmers take their freshly picked cherries daily to the Gititu factory where they are inspected for quality, the weight recorded (for payment) and processed with other deliveries made by fellow members during the same day.
Gititu is situated on the slopes of Mt. Kenya near the town of Karatina within Nyeri District. At the Gititu factory the coffee cherry is washed and pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature ‘mbuni’s (floaters) using water floatation which means the denser beans will sink and be sent through channels to the fermentation tank. This first stage of fermentation will last for around 24 hours, after which the beans are washed and sent to the secondary fermentation tank for another 12-24 hours. Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for as long as another 24 hours. This soaking process allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean to develop which results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup - it is thought that this process of soaking contributes to the flavour profiles that Kenyan coffees are so famed for.
The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where they are laid in a thin layer to allow around 50% of the moisture to be quickly removed. This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 5-10 days of the drying period. The dry parchment coffee is then delivered to a private mill and put into ‘bodegas’ to rest – these are raised cells made of chicken wire which allows the coffee to breathe fully.