Kagongo is a kikuyu name meaning 'high ground' - which relects the altitude of this factory and the farms of its smallholder members. The coffee is grown at altitudes of 1700 - 1800 masl. The factory is situated in the foorthills of Mount Kenya in Kirinjaga county in Central Kenya. The area is renowned for its fertile soils which are perfect for agriculture and especially the production of high quality coffee. The Kagongo Factory was established in 1959.
Fresh water for processing is drawn from the Mukindu River and to ensure water conversation is respected the factory uses the same water multiple times during the day through a recycling process. This enables them to significantly reduxce the water consumption.
The Kagongo Factory processes coffee using methods typical throughout Kenya. Local people are paid to pick ripe coffee cherries between September and january and these are pulped using disc pulper s in the wet mill. The water used to convey the resulting mucilage coated beans also aids quality separation by density since heavier beans sink in the water whilst lighter beans float on the surface. By channelling these beans separately three grades of parchment coffee are created: P1 (the best) P2 and P3. The parchment coffee is then channelled into large tanks where dry fermentation occurs during the following 24 hours or so. Once the mucilage is loose, the beans take on a pebble-like feel and so the fermentation process is halted by washing the beans in channels full of water, where further quality separation takes place, since low grade 'floaters' can be directed away from the dense high-quality beans. Next the parchment coffee is channelled to a soak tank where it sits in cold water for around 24 hours, a process which develops the amino acids within the beans and is thought to contribute to Kenyan coffee's unique flavours.
Next the parchment is laid in a thin layer upon raised beds and allowed to dry under the sun for between 11 and 14 days. The coffee then undergoes a period of storage or 'resting' before being delivered to a mill where the parchment will be removed, and the coffee screened and cleaned to remove any defects. It will then be graded by size to create AA, AB, PB etc and finally be packed in grain-pro lined bags or in vacuum packs ready for export.