Nestled right in the midst of the bean belt, Kenya is a country in East Africa that is known for its high-quality coffee.
It ranks 16th in the global charts for its coffee production and produces some of the top arabica coffee beans that the world has seen.
Understanding Kenyan coffee beyond its flavour profile will help you appreciate what the nation has to offer.
Although Kenya shares a border with Ethiopia where the spread of coffee began, it wasn’t until the late 1800s when Britishers brought the crop into the country.
The natives were forced into slavery to work on plantations, and even for decades later were only paid meagre wages.
At the turn of the century, there were said to be around 50 coffee plantations in Kenya. As the years passed, the country began to commercially produce coffee.
The government hired the necessary personnel to identify the best varieties of coffee that could be grown in large quantities.
In 1946, the Coffee Marketing Board was set up to manage the promotion of Kenyan coffees internationally. A few decades later the board was reformed as the Coffee Board of Kenya.
Up until the 1960s, ownership of the farms and managerial rights rested with the imperial settlers. But Kenyans were ready to take charge of their nation’s coffee growth.
Many more small coffee farms cropped up across the country where coffee began to be grown on private lands.
After all the trouble, Kenya began to see YoY improvements in the global response to their coffees.
Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Switzerland are the top countries that export the most Kenyan coffees.
Kenya’s success in the coffee trade is not just about the external conditions but the perseverance and skill of Kenyan coffee producers who, to this date, delve into research and advanced technologies to perfect their craft.
Reports suggest that there are six million Kenyans who depend on the coffee industry for their livelihood.
Kenyan coffees are sorted based on size, shape, colour, density and quality.
The grading system ranks them based on size with labels ranging from Kenya E to Kenya MH/ML. Kenya E, also known as Elephant grade beans, are the largest in size. Then you have the Kenya PB made up of peaberry coffees.
But what you really want to keep an eye out for is Kenya AA. They are considered to be a class apart from all of the coffee being produced in Africa.
When sorted for quality, the coffees are usually ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best of the lot.
A brew that is traditional to Kenya is called kahawa chungu, which translates to bitter coffee. It is made by brewing coffee on charcoal burners. These are strong and spicy to taste, rarely ever having much sugar.
The ingredients you’ll need to add to your coffee to make kahawa chungu are cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
One of the ways Kenyan coffee is sold is through weekly auctions.
The Nairobi Coffee Exchange is the platform that coffee growers use to connect with verified coffee exporters to sell their produce. This allows for maximum transparency and the farmers receive fair prices for their produce.
Kenya only grows arabica coffee with their coffee farms lying at elevations of 1200m to 2100m above sea level.
They have the ideal combination of environmental factors that promote quality coffee cultivation.
Most Kenyan coffees are washed-processed and held in high regard because of the bright acidity.
You’ll generally find tasting notes of citrus fruits, berries and cocoa in these brews.
The strong aftertaste, when paired with the medium to full body that Kenyan coffees tend to have, makes them stand out.
There are variations to the taste depending on the region of Kenya where the coffee is produced.
Often compared to Ethiopian coffees, Kenyan coffee beans possess such complexity and potential that they can be roasted to various degrees and still bring forth something interesting to coffee roasters and consumers alike.
One of our Kenyan single origins is the Teramuka coffee which is currently out of stock. It has a flavour profile consisting of dark chocolate, berry, and blackcurrant.
Have you ever tried a coffee from Kenya? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!