Café Imports Barista Origin Trip – Kenya Day 2

Group picture after lunch with the rain-swollen river in the background.
The wide superhighway sped us away from Nairobi.

The wide superhighway sped us away from Nairobi.

The group of barista champions, international coffee folks and locals loaded into our beefed up Toyota Landcruisers and headed north out of Nairobi. After sitting for hours the day before in the capital’s notorious gridlock, it was refreshing and unexpected to find ourselves on the open road motoring quickly down a six-lane superhighway.

Meeting with Wycliff at the SMS office in Thiku.

Meeting with Wycliff at the SMS office in Thiku.

The highway is a main arterial of life in Kenya, and a wide range of trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes dodge and dart their way along it. Pedestrians and bicyclists use the shoulders as thoroughfares and others just sit and watch it all pass them from the vantage point of the innumerable stores, houses, shanties and mansions that spring up in the mighty road’s wake.

Colorful buildings line the roadside, but as construction increases coffee lands are lost.

Colorful buildings line the roadside, but as construction increases coffee lands are lost.

Our first stop was the SMS office in Thika. SMS stands for Sustainable Management Services, and it is part of a larger organization called Ecom. Ecom also has dry mill facilities, the Highland Coffee Co., and after Wycliff the general manager gave us a presentation at the SMS offices on the work his company is doing, and the unique nature of the Kenyan coffee market, we headed over to Highland to see the dry mill which is located a few miles away.

A shot of the famed Kenyan wildlife. This must be a very young lion.

A shot of the famed Kenyan wildlife. This must be a very young lion.

Much of the land around SMS and Highland has historically been under coffee cultivation, but as land prices rise, many farmers have been bought out and the land turned over to housing and other development.

Cafe Imports' Tim Chapdelaine stands astride bags of coffee like a mighty colossus.

Cafe Imports’ Tim Chapdelaine stands astride bags of coffee like a mighty colossus.

Workers sew bags of green shut at the Highland Coffee dry mill.

Workers sew bags of green shut at the Highland Coffee dry mill.

We traveled further north, however, and met a family that has been farming for ages in the region, and plans to continue to do so. In fact, at Chania Estate they still have French Mission coffee trees that have been producing since Ivan Rule Harries planted them in the 1920s. It is amazing to see a plot of 90 year old coffee trees, but Boyce Allen Harries, Ivan’s grandson, showed great pride in the family’s farm and gave us a tour of his farm and facilities. Then we met up with his wife, Georgina, and their son, Russell, for a terrific lunch served in a glade by a swollen river.

Boyce Allen Harris welcomes us to Chania Estate, his family's coffee farm.

Boyce Allen Harris welcomes us to Chania Estate, his family’s coffee farm.

Gianni Cassatini makes friends wherever he goes.

Gianni Cassatini makes friends wherever he goes.

One of many coffee trees on the Chania Estate was planted almost a century ago.

One of many coffee trees on the Chania Estate was planted almost a century ago.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch with Boyce, his wife Georgina and their son Russell under the tree canopy.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch with Boyce, his wife Georgina and their son Russell under the tree canopy.

Russell Allen Harries shows that I'm not the only one who likes taking pictures.

Russell Allen Harries shows that I’m not the only one who likes taking pictures.

Group picture after lunch with the rain-swollen river in the background.

Group picture after lunch with the rain-swollen river in the background.

The rain which had pelted us on our drive in the morning made a brief return at lunchtime, but we ducked under the shade of some trees and enjoyed a marvelous afternoon before hitting the road once more to our night’s rest further north in Nyeri.

A man takes a walk on a rarely used rail line.

A man takes a walk on a rarely used rail line.

You can read about our first day in Kenya here.

About the Author

Ken

Kenneth R. Olson is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Huskies. Go Blazers! Go Dawgs!