26th September 2022
Kenyan coffee is awesome! Find out everything (actually everything) you need to know about Kenya coffee beans right here…
Kenya is the jolly next-door neighbour of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. But don’t put it in the shadows! High altitudes, awesome acidity and one very nifty auction system – Kenyan coffee has it all!
How does Coffee Origin affect Taste?
Coffee… it’s not just coffee. Brew freshly roasted speciality coffee, and say hello to a kaleidoscope of coffee flavour! That’s because each coffee-growing country creates unique crops with different tasting notes and flavours. Everything from climate and rainfall to soil nutrients and altitude play their part in the final characteristics of that bonnie coffee bean.
Coffee plants grow in four main parts of the world:
- South America
- Central America
- Africa (hey, Kenya!)
Coffees from different locations have distinct profiles. South American coffees tend to be aromatic and smooth-bodied, often treating us to nutty flavours, while African coffees have a stellar sweetness and bright notes of berries and fruit.
Try them all! Go on a coffee holiday and find your fave! Your mug awaits…
Kenya Coffee: A Very Brief History
Don’t fret. We’re not gonna set you off snoring with reams of history. We don’t do boring at Two Chimps. 😉
So, Kenya was pretty late to this whole coffee-growing thing. Yep, even though its neighbour had been harvesting coffee plants for centuries.
The earliest imports to Kenya were probably in 1893, when French missionaries brought coffee plants (probs the Bourbon varietal) from the Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The first harvest was a few years later, in 1896, and came mainly from large, British-run coffee estates.
Fast forward to 1933, and we arrive at the Coffee Act. This important piece of legislation (should be in the GCSE textbooks, imo) meant that Kenyans could auction coffee in Kenya itself. Before, Kenya coffee beans were sold in London.
Fast forward again and we find another Act: the 1954 Swynnerton Plan. This consolidated African smallholdings and enabled Kenyan agriculture to develop. It also – crucially – moved coffee production into Kenyan hands. The result? Kenyan smallholder farmers could massively increase the amount of high-quality coffee they produced.
Still with us? Awesome.
Kenyan Coffee Today
Nip over to Kenya today, and you’ll find Kenyan coffee beans growing on large estates and small farms. Kenyan coffee is mainly arabica (the good stuff) and maintains pretty exceptional traceability records. This is great news; it means we can locate a coffee back to the farmer or estate who grew it!
Kenya has put lots of effort into developing its coffee. Farmers are forward-thinking and uber-knowledgeable. They know their beans inside out! Kenyans trade the coffee using unique auctioning methods – the very same methods their grandparents established in 1934!
Where does Kenyan Coffee Grow?
Kenya is a pretty awesome coffee-growing location. Plant some arabica seeds in Kenyan soil, and you’ll be rewarded with mugs of pure MAGIC.
Why? Because Kenyan conditions are just right for coffee. It sports some high altitudes (over 1500 metres), which slow down the growing process and allow plenty of time for the coffee flavours to mature inside the beans. Kenya also treats the plants to yummy volcanic soil. Rich in minerals and brimming with nutrients, this helps to keep the plants in tip-top condition. Think of it as the coffee equivalent of a green smoothie.
The main Kenyan harvest occurs between October and December, with the best Kenyan coffees coming from the central regions.
Take Nyeri in the Central Highlands. This fan-tas-tic region is home to the extinct Mount Kenya and oodles of top-quality red volcanic soil. We also find Kirinyaga located just next door. Here’s another great coffee-cultivating county full of skilled smallholders with some very high-achieving washing stations.
But it’s not all huddling in the middle. Coffee lovers’ ears are starting to prick up at coffees from Western Kenya, from regions like Kisii and Marakwet.
Kenya Coffee Processing
Processing… doesn’t sound nice, right?
Wrong! Coffee processing is miles away from the chicken dipper, fast food-style of processing. It’s the good kind. The coffee kind.
Once picked, farmers must process their coffee cherries in order to remove the layers of skin, pulp, mucilage and parchment around the seed (the coffee bean).
There are several ways to process coffee, with the two main methods being the natural and washed process.
Washed processing (also know as the wet process) tends to be the method used in Kenya. And they’ve got it down to a T: Kenyan farms produce some of the best washed coffees in the world!
Unlike the natural process, the splish-splosh washed process involves water. Cherries make their way into large water tanks which cause a little fermentation to break down the outer layers. It brings some mouth-watering wine-like flavours, too!
Kenyan Coffee Taste
Hmmm… this is a tricky one. It’s hard to set Kenya’s flavour notes down in stone because their range of coffees is pretty vast. Region, coffee varietal and processing all play a part in the final flavour. But, in general, scrummy Kenya coffee beans taste (warning, your mouth will water…):
- Bright and vibrant (we bet you’ll be able to taste the difference between a Kenya coffee and fuller bodies coffees from countries like Guatemala)
- Fruity and berryish
- Citrusy – maybe with a lovely hint of lemon?
You’re drooling, right? Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Keen to try Kenya coffee? Do! Kenyan coffee beans are the way if you like fruity coffees with very-berry flavours.
Head to the shop and find your favourite!
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