Ichamama is the largest washing station, known in Kenya as a “factory,” that operates under the umbrella coop called Othaya in Nyeri county, named for the nearby river. Around 700 active members in the region contribute their ripe cherry to Ichamama, and then it’s up to Bernard Karuga, the factory manager, and his owner-employees to process. The triple washing process involves a pre-fermentation float to sort out floaters and a post-fermentation soak that cleans the coffee and improves the consistency. The coffee is then dried and marketed by KCCE (Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters); one of just a few organizations in the Kenyan coffee industry that, from the top down, is fully cooperative-member-owned and operated.
Ichamama’s position in Nyeri could hardly be better for coffee cultivation. The Aberdares Mountains erupt from central Kenya, just west of the mountain that bears the country’s name. The forested mountain range also happens to be fertile soil for coffee, among other crops, and the coffees from western Nyeri county benefit from its particular ecosystem.