Boyce Harries and his family have deep roots in Kenya, and more specifically, the town of Thika.
The Harries Family
Boyce’s great-great-grandfather, Allen Charles Harries, moved from South Africa to Kenya in 1904 and established a farm that borders the Chania River, located just 30 miles north-east of Nairobi. The farm has been passed down through the Harries family, generation after generation. First to Allen’s son Aldred Ivan Rule Harries, and then to Boyce’s grandfather Peter Allen Harries.
It was Peter and his wife, Rowena (a New Zealander), who in 1946, purchased an additional piece of land five miles above Chania on the same ridge running down from the Aberdare Mountains. They named it Oreti Estate (a Māori name meaning a place of danger and raw beauty, and also the name of a beach in New Zealand close to where Rowena grew up) and established a mixed farm of pineapples and coffee, and later macadamia nuts.
Peter’s son (Boyce’s uncle), David Huge Allen Harries took over the farm in the early eighties, and after his retirement in 2013 stewardship of the land has been passed along to Boyce. Chania and Oreti Estates are some of the only remaining private estates in Kenya, still owned and managed by the descendants of the original pioneer farmers.
Chania and Oreti Estates have a permanent labor force of 40 people. The majority are housed on the Estates and several are families into their second and third generation as employees. During busy periods, seasonal and daily labour are enrolled as required. This can be as many as 300 people, all who live locally and many of whom are part of the extended family of permanent employees.
There is a self-elected workers committee who meet monthly to raises and discuss social, welfare, safety and health matters. The farms employ a nursery school teacher, and the Social Hall at Chania Estate, equipped with a dart board and television, doubles as a nursery school during the day. More recently they built a ‘homework room’ to provide a place with electric light at night for the older children of farm employees to study.
The Harries family have donated 50 acres of land to the Thika Municipal Council and co-founded the Wabeni Technical Institute on this site. The school provides local children with access to education in technical skills and trades, to help them make a living; e.g., dressing making, motor mechanics, carpentry. The name “Wabeni” is a local derivation of the Kiswahili, which means ‘belonging to Ivan’, in remembrance of Boyce's great-grandfather - Aldred Ivan Rule Harries.
Varieties and Processing
Chania Estate’s 180 acres of coffee is primarily the French Mission variety – a type of Bourbon – that gets its name from the French Missionaries that bought it to East-Africa in the late 1800s, but Ruiru 11, Batian, SL14 & SL28 varieties are also grown on the farm.
Oreti Estate is a much smaller farm, totaling only 90 acres, and is planted with SL28 and the much less common SL14. While being very susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), SL14 is prized for its cup quality. It was Boyce’s grandfather, Peter, who first planted Oreti with SL14 in 1961, believing that the rounder bean shape led to more even roasting, and therefore better tasting coffee. SL14 has now become so rare, that Oreti Estate is one of the last remaining places it’s still cultivated.
Most coffee in Kenya is processed using a traditional washed method, but over the last few years, Boyce has begun experimenting with processing methods not typically found in Kenya, including honey, natural, and carbonic maceration (CM) naturals.
(Natural Processing at Chania Estate)