What you need to know:
- During the tasting, to get the aroma of the beverage, you break the crust using a teaspoon and smell the steam coming out. For acidity and body, you put a bit in a cup and slurp it.
- I discover that I’m actually not as averse to coffee as I had thought; I prefer it medium.
I have been on a spice farm tour in Zanzibar, a coffee tour in Ethiopia, a cycling tour through a tea estate in Uganda, and top on my bucket list is a vineyard tour in South Africa. For some reason, though, I’ve never been on any farm tours in Nairobi or its environs.
This past Tuesday, I decided to tour Fairview Coffee Estate in Kiambu. They charge Sh1,000 for adult Kenyan citizens. Coffee tourism plays a key role in educating visitors about Kenya’s leading cash crop. In my daily life, however, I take neither tea nor coffee, and my interest was purely for the experience. Besides, it never hurts to be that person at the table that knows a bit of something about everything.
The 1.5-hour tour will be in three stages. The estate is 250 acres but is divided into blocks for easy management, and visitors get to check out two of the ten blocks. There are 76,000 coffee trees and they harvest 80 to 88 tons per year. There is also a dairy unit- after checking this part out I feel like I’m now qualified to be on that Australian TV Show ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’, people can hike through a forest to a waterfall, come with friends for a picnic or carry a book to read and unwind.
They grow two of the five varieties of Kenyan Arabica coffee, which Elizabeth points out. There is the SL 28 which is the more traditional variety having been planted in 1909 when the estate was first founded (these traditional bushes can last for up to 300 years) and Ruiru 11 which was planted here only 11 years ago. I also spot various banana and fruit trees, and I am informed that they add flavour to the coffee. There are two tours during the day; at 10:00am and 2:00pm. I’d recommend you go for the morning one.
The next stage of the tour is the factory and processing. It’s a traditional factory, most of the machines are over 40 years old and the space is smaller than I had pictured. I’m like that terrible student in high school that’s bad at taking notes and the whole factory process goes out the other ear as soon as it comes in. For coffee lovers, though, this stuff would be fascinating. I remember, though, that good quality coffee is defined by weight and size, and we also walk around the drying beds.
The final part of the tour is my favourite: the coffee lab and roasting. Here, you learn about the grading and screening of coffee, different roasts (light, medium
During the tasting, to get the aroma of the beverage, you break the crust using a teaspoon and smell the steam coming out. For acidity and body, you put a bit in a cup and slurp it. I discover that I’m actually not as averse to coffee as I had thought; I prefer it medium. The dark has a deep body because some flavours were burnt along the way, the light is too mild for me but the medium roast is well balanced.
Thereafter, the tour ends with a cup of coffee with milk and cookies out in the lush gardens. I wish I had brought a book. If you’re planning to go with family, charges for children from 12-18 is Sh 500, and under 12 go free.