Gondo and its sister washing stations are in a unique pocket of Kenya. Western Muranga County runs directly into the upland Aberdare Mountain range on rich red volcanic soil ideal for producing some of Kenya’s best coffees. Muranga is an oblong county that sits between the industrious Kiambu County, to the south, and the most famous coffee counties of Kenya’s central province: Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Embu, to the north. The Aberdare range contributes significant climate influence over this part of Muranga, keeping the vegetation cooler and well-respirated, the way Mt. Kenya impacts its neighboring regions to the north. Coffees from Gondo factory tend to be rich and tangy, with syrupy texture and tart stone fruit notes.
Individual farmers in these fertile foothills average 250 coffee trees each, and half-acre plots per family. The Gondo processing station, or “factory”, as they’re known in Kenya, is one of three sites managed by the New Kiriti Farmers’ Cooperative Society (FCS), an umbrella organization that centralizes management and marketing relationships for their member factories. New Kiriti has 2,469 farmer members across the three factories, 727 of which deliver cherry to Gondo.
Kenya is of course known for some of the most meticulous at-scale processing that can be found anywhere in the world. Bright white parchment, nearly perfectly sorted by density and bulk conditioned at high elevations is the norm, and a matter of pride, even for generations of Kenyan processing managers who prefer drinking Kenya’s tea (abundantly farmed in Muranga county) to its coffee. Ample water supply in the central growing regions has historically allowed factories to wash, and wash, and soak, and wash their coffees again entirely with fresh, cold river water. Conservation is creeping into the discussion in certain places--understandably in the drier areas where water, due to climate change, cannot be as taken for granted—but for the most part Kenya continues to thoroughly wash and soak its coffees according to tradition.
At Gondo, cherry is hand-sorted for ripeness and floated for density before accepted and depulped each day. After the coffee is washed, it’s soaked in fresh water for long periods of time to stop sugar fermentation and clean the parchment. The coffee is dried over a period of two weeks on raised beds, which are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control for optimal drying.
New Kiriti FCS includes the Kayu and Kirimahiga factories along with Gondo. The society was founded in 1998 and retains its main office at the Kayu factory, 17 kilometers from Kangema town, in the Mathioya district of Muranga County.