Producing coffee for Bury St Edmunds based Paddy & Scott's is a labour of love
The coffee harvest on our Farm in Kenya began in April and is now almost complete. Coffee grows on trees in the form of beans protected by a red, fleshy ‘cherry’ which takes several months to mature from flower to full ripeness. This process requires stable temperatures and consistent rainfall which is why coffee only grows at certain altitudes and in certain climates. On the Muchomba Farm it’s a labour of love for George, the farmer, and our two agronomists William and Martin. They nurture each tree and every bean during the growing season, aiming for a high yield and good quality coffee.
During busy times on the farm we employ up to 80 local workers who pick, sort and process every bean by hand. There is no shortcut or easy route to the high-quality coffee we’re looking for. On larger farms, in more developed countries, there are machines which strip the branches of a coffee tree. We don’t use these machines on the Muchomba Farm as they strip leaves, unripe, over-ripe, malformed and insect-damaged beans all at once. Picking by hand is best for us for a high-quality harvest. Only the ripest, best beans are picked from the tree into wicker baskets. They are then subject to several quality control processes, all carried out by hand, before they even leave the farm!
The next step in the process used to be a long walk, drive or cycle to the nearest community coffee processing plant with the harvest in sacks and baskets. Here, all the local farms’ coffee is weighed, washed and processed all together in enormous batches. In this system the farmer is paid by weight of their harvest, with no merit being given for better beans. George’s coffee would be placed into the system and mixed in with other harvests from miles around – some of high quality, but mostly not. All his hard work masked and muddled in a system that doesn’t promote or reward the conscientious farmer.
One of the first things we built at The Muchomba Farm was our very own coffee processing unit. This means we can keep a close eye on quality and make sure George Muchomba and the local workers are paid a decent price for their hard work.
This season, despite the challenge of an unusually dry and hot year in Meru, Kenya, we are still expecting a record-breaking harvest in terms of yield and quality. These beans now have a long journey before they end up in your cup, but when they do, make sure you raise a cup to the agronomists, pickers, sorters, processors, millers, roasters and farmers who put their love and time into your incredible cup of coffee.
We’ll drink to that!
Paddy & Scott’s
Abbeygate Street and Abbeycroft Leisure Centre, Bury St Edmunds, 72 High Street, Hadleigh