Chania and Oreti Estates are the only large-medium scale, private coffee plantations remaining in Kenya that are owned and managed by the descendants of the original pioneer farmers.
Allen Charles Harries (b.1850) arrived in Kenya from South Africa in 1904. After a thorough recce of the country he established Karamaini Estate in an area that was to become Thika. It took him two days to cover the 30-mile journey from Nairobi using donkey carts and porters.
His third son Aldred Ivan Rule Harries (Ivan; b.1881) remained in South Africa and helped support his father financially, eventually joining him in 1912.
In 1926 Ivan moved to Chania Estate. This was a mixed farm on the Chania River, which held small areas of coffee.
Here Ivan set about discovering what could be farmed successfully, trying his hand a cattle, sisal and pineapples, whilst slowly increasing the total area of coffee. He also bought adjacent, small farms to create the Estate as it is today and in the early 1950s, based on his initials, he named his enterprise A.I.R. Harries & Son Ltd.
Ivan’s son Peter Allen Harries (b.1921) completed his studies in New Zealand and joined his father in 1946. He and his wife Rowena (a New Zealander) bought a piece of land five miles above Chania on the same ridge running down from the Aberdare Mountains. They named this Oreti Estate (a Maori name meaning a place of danger and raw beauty) and established a mixed farm of pineapples and coffee, and later macadamia nuts.
Peter inherited the running of both farms in the late 1950s when his father passed away. Pineapples, livestock and macadamia each have their own story, but coffee became the focus of the farming operations. When Peter died unexpectedly in 1983, his eldest child and latterly only surviving son David Hugh Allen Harries (b.1947) stepped in to continue the family legacy.
David’s nephew Boyce Marquis Allen Harries (b.1976) came to join him in 2004, living in Peter’s old home on Oreti. Following David’s retirement in 2013 Boyce took over the running of both Estates, and the family business of A.I.R. Harries & Son Ltd.