Kangunu Washing Station
Grow and process traditional Kenyan coffees in the shadow of Aberdare National Park
Partnered with Stumptown:
SL28 and SL34, two varieties first grown by Scott Labs in the 1930s
Fully washed with a Kenyan-style double fermentation
Each year Kangunu becomes more and more efficient, and 2015 was no exception. By the time the harvest is done, the fertilizer for the next crop is already rolling out to farmers.
The Kangunu Farmer Cooperative Society has an incredible attention to detail that starts at the top, with strong, transparent leadership, and includes each farmer. When you visit their factory, which is spread down a beautiful hill, you’ll see that day’s purchases, quantities and prices written on chalkboard — so each farmer knows exactly who is being paid what.
The Kangunu farmers grow their coffee in the shadow of Mt. Kenya and Aberdare National Park, in what is possibly the most beautiful place we regularly visit. Everywhere you look, bright green foliage — enormous banana leaves, the lush dark green of jungle — strikes a contrast to the bright orange clay whose minerality gives the coffee such depth and nuance.
We won’t say “obsessed with quality” — let’s go with “very, very focused” instead. From the farmers to shipping, every bit of Kangunu’s coffee production is done with immaculate care. The coffee cherry begins processing at the top of a hill, making their way to the bottom over the course of three days, a process that includes two fermentations and a 12-hour soak. The outcome is the very definition of clean coffee — it’s complex, perfectly balanced and crisp.
The Kangunu Coffee Factory was established in 1970 on five acres of land. Located in the Central Province of the Muranga district just outside the town of Kiriaini, the mill serves three local villages: Kiru, Njumbi, and Ngoto. It is closely affiliated with the Kangunu Farmers’ Cooperative Society (FCS), which has about 1,600 active members. Kangunu practices a unique approach to transparency; the leadership lists all coffees sold on a chalkboard outside the factory along with detailed records of farmer deliveries and prices received.
The affiliate members carry out all agronomic activities associated with coffee production. New coffee plants are sourced through the Coffee Research Station and planted according to strict guidelines. The Ministry of Agriculture offers training programs with technical advice to farmers regarding fieldwork and agronomy. The Kangunu FCS has a field committee that checks in with each farm and supervises compliance with agreed upon guidelines. Charles Chege manages the Kangunu mill and its 14 full time employees. During peak harvest season, the full time staff can increase to 25 people.
In 2011, the wet mill initiated a couple of environmental conservation projects: they invested in a recirculation system to reduce the amount of water used to depulp coffee cherry and dug six waste water soak pits to reintroduce the water to the soil.
Kangunu processes their coffee with the utmost care. Vigilant selection occurs during each stage of processing. After weighing the delivered cherry, they depulp it then ferment it in upper tanks for 12 hours. After a quick wash, they ferment the coffee a second time to ensure maximum acidity and cleanliness before they wash and grade it in channels. They soak it overnight to increase acidity, brightness and cup clarity. They sort the parchment as it dries on raised beds for 10-14 days. It then rests in conditioning bins for about 30 days prior to shipping.
Kangunu constantly focuses on improvements, efficiency and quality. Their equipment choices demonstrate their commitment to quality: from digital scales, to McKinnon depulpers. They’re so efficient that by the time the harvest has finished, they already have fertilizer inputs ready to provide to society members. Their preparation ensures that farmers can fertilize during the crucial time before the rains come two months later.