Nyeri Hill farm lies just 3 km from the famous coffee town of Nyeri, in the heart of Nyeri County. The large estate is run and managed by the Catholic Arch Diocese of Nyeri and is one of the earliest and largest coffee farms in Kenya.
The Catholic Archdiocese ownership of Nyeri Hill Farm Coffee Estate dates back to 1904, when the Consolata Fathers established the first coffee demonstration plot at the current site of the Consolata Mission Hospital.
The altitude varies from 1,600 to 2,200 metres above sea level, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius. Annual rainfall ranges between 750mm to 950mm. The soils are well drained, deep volcanic loam. All this makes for some truly exceptional lots. The farm’s purpose is, to support the Catholic mission of the Church – primarily establishing new churches and funding education. However, a huge portion of the farm’s income from coffee sales goes towards salaries! With 375 year-round employees, the Farm is one of the biggest employers in Nyeri County.
In addition to the other farming activities within the farm – including tea farming, livestock management, horticulture and reforestation – the Catholic Church has over the last century through the farm’s coffee income managed to establish and maintain various health, education and pastoral institutions.
Since 1934, the farm has had its own wet and dry mills – originally used by the Consolata Fathers to mill their own coffee and export it back to Turin, their birth place in Italy. The pristine wet mill is still very operational and has been heavily maintained and modernised over the years.
During the harvest, a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that quality is maintained. The farm hires an additional 2,000 people at the peak of the harvest, all of whom are well–trained in quality harvesting methods. Only the ripest cherries are picked at each pass. These are delivered on the same day to the washing station, sorted to remove any damaged or underripe cherries, and pulped using the farm’s 8 disk pulper. The pulped coffee is then fermented for between 6 and 48 hours before being fully washed to remove all the remaining mucilage.
The coffee is then left under circulating, clean water in the factory’s soaking tanks for around 24 hours. Once soaked and clean, the parchment graded through channels and then delivered to pre-drying tables (with slightly larger screen holes) for around two hours. Here it will be sorted, again, as it loses excess surface moisture, before it is delivered to the main drying beds. The farm has 150 of these – a very large capacity. Despite this, mechanical (guardiolas) are sometimes used to dry the over-flow if there isn’t room on the beds.
Usually drying times are around 7 to 14 days until the coffee reaches the optimal humidity of 10.5 to 11%. Coffee is turned and sorted every two hours and is covered during the hottest part of the day to prevent splitting and to promote even drying. After this is reached the coffee is bagged and rested in the farm’s ample warehouse.
Nyeri Hill Farm assists the local community by providing them with subsidised health and educational facilities. It’s institutions of learning are ranked among the best performers in Kenya. Every year, the management of Nyeri Hill sponsor eight of the best performing Primary School pupils from disadvantaged families in the neighbourhood, to continue with their education up to the end of their secondary school education.