Three Rockets in the Sky (Ancis, Mārtiņš, and Aivars) visited Boyce this year to look for the best Kenyan coffee to bring back home, and they came across this unique lot - a natural processed Kenyan coffee. This is so unusual for Kenyan coffee scene and no wonder, as Boyce added with a glimpse of humor - locals think he is crazy. Being brave and looking for a different approach might seem crazy from some perspective, but for Boyce, it really paid off. After several experiments, he managed to get Natural Kenyan up to 92 points!
Boyce Harries represents the fifth generation of coffee producers, today managing two coffee farms in Kenya: Chania and Oreti estate. These two farms are the last remaining medium-sized farms in Kenya. The Harries family are growing varieties that are quite unusual for Kenya, including SL14 and Red Bourbon. They are the last remaining to still produce the SL14 cultivar, which was the first SL (Scottish Lab) variety cultivated in Kenya. SL14 is not easy to grow, so it has been gradually replaced in Kenya with the SL28 and SL34 varieties, which are more climate hardly and produce higher yields.
Oreti Estate farm is located on deep volcanic red soils. This small 35-hectare farm was named after New Zealand’s Oreti Beach, where Boyce’s grandfather and grandmother met for the first time. Peter Harries decided to plant 17 hectares of SL14 alongside the SL28 in 1961. Although particularly susceptible to disease, the family has kept this variety because of its remarkable properties of quality.
The farms have 40 full-time employees, but they hire up to 300 workers during harvests. The farm has opened its own nursery school to take care of the children of their employees.
All the coffee is picked entirely by hand and processed on-site. Most of it is being washed, but Boyce also produces natural and honey processed coffees as well as micro-lots of specific varieties.
Q. Can you please tell me a bit more in detail about the natural processing you are performing at the farm?
This is quite unique for Kenya, although our farms have been working on this for nearly 8 years, learning each year and improving our coffee preparation methods. The ripening stage is very critical as we know, add to that the age of the cycle of the coffee tree, by this I mean that in Kenya we cut back the main stems every 6 years or so, as we have learned to select only the youngest cycles for the natural process. Those younger stems also have the boldest beans and in my opinion a better layer of mucilage for the fermentation.
The selection has been put on raised African beds in the sun and dried down to a certain moisture level. After that, we store the unmilled coffee in Grain-Pro bags to preserve it as well as possible, as we only send the coffee to the dry mill when we had confirmed the market. Meaning that beans are out of those grain pro bags for a very short amount of time hence the characteristics of the coffee remains preserved.
The coffee you have is of SL varietal selection from our smaller farm called Oreti, which is located at a higher altitude than our main farm Chania.
This is unique for Kenya. Is there anyone else you know who process that way?
I am sure more will try, but I don't know of anyone else performing this process consistently year in and year out.
Q. What challenges do you face?
The risk is, if the preparation fails in any way, the price of the coffee will drop really low because at the moment it's sold as the lowest grade coffee (in Kenya called Mbuni). At the Kenya coffee auction, Mbuni gets the lowest price, as buyers are looking for a traditional clean washed profile coffee.
Q. Why Natural?
We wanted to offer a wider range of processing from our farms to give a series of Profiles that we could offer other specialty sectors, as they can appreciate single farm, single variety and different processes that give a different cup experience from the same source.
Q. What's the story behind?
We are a family operated farm with two estates in the Thika area. My great-great-grandfather settled in Thika in 1904 having traveled up with his sons and daughters from South Africa. it took a long time to learn which crops could be grown successfully. in 1926 my great grandfather purchased back the farm that is Chania today and with his son (my grandfather) they bought Oreti in the mid-1940s.
Q. Have you influenced from other origins, farms?
I try to keep an eye on the Central and Southern American specialty coffee processing ideas and methods, although I have never visited them in person. So much of my information is from research and also shared from others who have been there. We start with small experimental lots and build up from this as we learn how to translate it to our conditions.