Petit is a small coffee estate located in Kiambu County, in Kenya’s central highlands. The estate is owned by Peter Kugi Ndugo, who established it in 2010. Peter grew up in the area and is the son of a coffee farmer. After leaving his family’s shamba (‘farm’ in Swahili) to pursue a successful career in finance, Peter decided to return to his village when he retired. He inherited uncultivated land from his family (his elder siblings inherited his father’s coffee shambas) and decided to plant coffee and bananas and to keep dairy cows. Peter has since acquired more land and now has three coffee shambas totalling 10 acres, which make up the Petit estate.
Petit sits in the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mt Kenya, in an area defined by its bright red, nutrient-rich, volcanic soil and cool climate. These geographical conditions are ideal for exceptional coffee production and contribute to the outstanding quality of this lot. At the time of planting, Peter chose the SL-28 and SL-34 varieties that are most commonly found in central Kenya, specifically because they produce a high-quality flavour profile. He has also planted a small amount of Batian, a newer, hardier, hybrid that has been bred for high yields and disease resistance, coupled with a high potential for excellent cup quality. The varieties are harvested and processed together, as separation is very challenging to achieve during the busy harvest period.
Besides planting high-quality varieties and using excellent farming practices, Peter decided early on to build his own wet mill – or “factory” as they are known in Kenya – on the estate. This allows him to process the coffee independently rather selling his coffee cherries to a cooperative or private mill.
This approach has allowed Peter to control every step of the coffee’s production directly – from farming, harvesting, processing, drying and sale – and gives him excellent oversight on each quality variable. Electing to manage the processing on such a small scale has required significant investment in infrastructure, equipment and staff. It is also far costlier to process small volume lots than large day lots. This investment has paid off, however, as Peter is now able to prioritise quality and secure high prices for his coffee on the strength of its excellent cup profile.
This coffee was sourced through Sucastainability – a marketing agent that is on the ground directly helping Peter with training, education and support, and to secure the very best prices for his milled coffee. This is Peter’s third year working with Sucastainability and, as he says, he is “open to all good advice” on improving the yield and quality achieved at Petit. Head here to learn more about Sucastainability’s work in Kenya.
WHATS IN A NAME
Petit (pronounced “peh-teet”) is French for “small”. Peter spent many years working in France and speaks the language fluently. When asked why he chose to call the estate Petit he simply said “because it’s small!”
Kiambu County is part of Kenya’s former Central Province, which was dissolved in 2013. The area includes Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Nyandarua Counties, and is traditionally the homeland of people of Kikiyu ethnicity. The central highlands of Kenya are considered to be one of the wealthiest areas of the country, due to the incredibly fertile land, geographical proximity to the capital, Nairobi, and close integration with the country’s colonial administration before Kenya gained independence in 1962. This integration afforded the communities of Central Kenya with opportunities for education, business and political prowess, despite the various injustices of the colonial government. The Kikiyu people have a long and proud history of agriculture and the region is farmed intensively, with coffee, tea and dairy being the most important modern crops.
Like Peter, many of the producers in the region are second-generation landholders, whose parents would have purchased and planted coffee shambas in the 1950s and 1960s, after agricultural reform allowed for small Kenyan farmers to produce cash crops on their family farms (instead of only on large, British owned estates). At that time, it was recommended to plant SL-28 and SL-34, which remain the predominant varieties found in the area and make up the majority of this lot. Both cultivars have Bourbon and Moka heritage and are named after the laboratory that promoted their wider distribution in Kenya during the early 20th Century: Scott Laboratories. Farmers in Kiambu grow coffee as a cash crop alongside food crops like banana, maize, macadamia, avocados and vegetables. Tea and dairy are also important sources of income for the producers.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
The coffee at Petit was carefully handpicked and sorted to ensure only the ripe cherries were processed. It was pulped using a two-disc pulping machine, which removes the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean.
The coffee was then dry fermented for 36 hours, to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the beans. Whilst the coffee was fermenting it was checked and when ready it was rinsed and removed from the tanks.
Using clean water, the parchment-covered coffee was then washed in water channels sent to soaking tanks where it sat underwater for a further 24 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity.
Petit sources water for processing from a deep borehole, that extends 220 meters into the ground. Water is pumped up and stored in two 40gallon tanks located above the factory. This clean, untainted water is used for processing and grading the coffee and contributes to the overall cleanliness in the cup.
After soaking, the coffee was transferred to raised drying tables (also known as African beds) and turned constantly to ensure it is dried evenly until it reaches 11–12% humidity.
After the coffee has been rested it is then dry-processed at Kahawa Bora mill.
We're loving this Kenyan. It's the epitome of a 'more-ish' coffee, perfect to throw on filter and guzzle away or delicious as a morning espresso!