Forgoing a trip to Kenya in January, we favoured further exploration of Ethiopia as it continues to open up in terms of traceability and access. Still selling all their coffee through an antiquated auction system, building long-lasting relationships in Kenya remains a lot harder. Our approach, therefore, has always been to purchase the most delicious, tantalising coffees we can, showing off as much sweetness and acidity as possible, regardless of if we've heard of the factory or not.
Casting the net wide this season, we only selected three coffees from over fifty samples vetted in our Vyner Street Roastery. Seemingly, it's getting harder and harder to find Kenyan coffees that offer the profile we initially fell in love with, but we're thrilled to have found these three sweet, expressive coffees, from three new factories we haven't had the pleasure of working with before; Gondo, Githembe and Muchagara.
This AA selection comes from the north of Kenya's Murang'a County, from the Gondo factory (how a washing station named in Kenya), located in the Mathioya District close to the border with Nyeri County. The washing station is overseen by the New Kiriti Farmers' Co-operative Society (FCS), established in 1998, who also manage Kayu and Kirimahiga washing stations, comprising of around 2,500 members. Since 2010 the FCS has been working hard to improve conditions for their workers, ensuring its factories are safe places to work. They've also increased wages, introduced overtime pay, 30 days holiday entitlement for each worker with no risk of them losing their job should they pursue it, and they have begun offering maternity/paternity leave packages. This wave of change was spurred on by TechnoServe, who have been running an 8-year project called 'Coffee Initiative' in East Africa, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Often we focus on what the FCS offers in terms of agricultural training, which is obviously essential for improving coffee quality and overall production yields, but this emphasis on improving the working standards at the coffee mills is equally laudable. Through the Coffee Initiative, 340 factories have undergone changes in their management structure and operational procedures to protect their workers better, both physically and financially.
Of the 2,500 or so members in the New Kiriti FCS, around 550 are supplying Gondo with their harvested coffee cherries. Before the cherry is processed, it is first sorted through by hand to ensure there are no over/under-ripe cherries going into production. The cherries are sluiced through a disc-pulper using water from the nearby Kananahu river. Re-used several times to feed the pulper, the river water is treated in evaporation and seepage pits once it becomes too loaded with coffee sugars and particulates, thus ensuring the factory is not contaminating the local water table. Once depulped, the coffee is fermented in tanks for around 16-18 hours, fully washed and then soaked in clean water before being slowly dried on raised beds in the sun.
As our first East African coffee of the new harvest, we hope you enjoy Gondo as much as we do.
Mathioya, Murang'a County, Kenya
Sweet & tart notes of nectarine, whitecurrant & tangerine are complemented by brown butter, icing sugar & vanilla in the finish. Think cooked fruit pie.