Coffee Origins: Kenya


Coffee Facts

Kenyan coffee is not only one of the most sought after coffee origins, but also one of the rarest, with less than 400 estates that grow coffee on small local farms. But thanks to the well thought-through centralised auction system, the production of coffee in Kenya has great outcomes.

Kenyan coffee production takes only 0.5% of the world's market, being the 22nd largest coffee producer in the world. Despite this small production volume, the demand for Kenyan coffee brands is on the rise.

With such a popular coffee it is easy to look up the Kenya coffee production statistics. The average farm size for smallholders is 1-14 hectares and for estates 15-50 hectares. These small farms not only allowed for more efficient farming and easier regulation of materials and chemicals used in the process. It also allowed the development of the centralised system that made Kenya coffee export more interesting not only for bigger African nations but all over the world. 

Grown on the hillsides of Mount Kenya, Kenyan coffee plantations are spread out over the characteristic aluminium and iron-rich red clay soil, which contributes to the typical taste of Kenyan coffee.

 Kenya coffee history is very rich and complicated. Surprisingly, despite being the neighbouring country of Ethiopia, the birthplace of the coffee plant, the industry found its inception here nearly 300 years after the commercial growing of coffee started all over the world. 

It took time for coffee to find its way back to the African continent. But once it did, the plant that meanwhile went through cultivation mutated in different climates into a variation that, thanks to the red clay soil, created the unique coffee flavour profile Kenyan coffee has to this day.

Thanks to the small production and already altered and therefore enhanced variety, some Arabica varieties produced in Kenya are highly unique. The Kenya coffee industry is always looking for ways to profile new varieties that would be more disease and pest-resistant.

Kenya coffee beans are striving towards being improved on a level when the use of fertilisers and fungicides will be unnecessary. The research is beneficial for coffee producers all over the world, with countries like El Salvador successfully trialling some varieties, like Kenyan SL28. 

Coffee growing areas in Kenya

The best climate and altitudes for coffee growing in Kenya are around Mount Kenya, towering over the Capital of Kenya, Nairobi. Despite the challenges of coffee farming in Kenya, like limited area for coffee farms or fluctuating international prices, or exhausted soil and changing climate, the coffee farmers are trying to breed new more resistant varieties that would sustain the test of time and demand for the unique Kenya coffee tasting notes.

The Kenyan coffee beans are graded by size, therefore the AA and AB labelling which you can also find on our Kenya- Kiambu AB variety, now available in our online store. Kenya AA coffee beans are the largest and usually also the most complex. 

Another useful Kenya coffee fact is the time of the harvest. The main crop is ready between October to December. But depending on the weather conditions, which are very favourable on the slopes of Mount Kenya with the perfect altitudes and twice-yearly rainy seasons, the small “fly” crop is harvested from April to June. 

Among the coffee beans from Africa, coffee production in Kenya may not be the largest, but what it lacks in volume it gains in quality! Kenya coffee plantations, namely areas like Marsabit, Meru, Kirinyaga, Embu or Nyeri, produce some of the most fruity and fresh bodied coffee beans in the world.

Kenya coffee tasting notes are very distinct. Juicy and rich textures, intense citrus acidity and medium body, and complex fruit notes make this coffee so popular. The taste differs subtly from region to region.

With the suitable roasting, the compelling aroma comes out, with floral and sweet notes, very intense, just like the acidity and flavour of Kenyan coffee. The tasting notes of berry, most significant is blackcurrant and wild berries, as well as floral and sugar-sweet notes of cocoa and brown sugar, are perfect for both filter and espresso roasts.

Frequently asked questions about coffee in Kenya

What coffee beans are grown in Kenya?

Kenyan coffee industry mainly focuses on the production of Arabica varieties. Among others, the most popular ones for both their taste and their growing properties are SL28, SL34, Ruiru 11 and Batian.

Kenyan coffee beans are mostly washed, a process that avoids spoilage and therefore prepares the beans for Kenyan coffee exporters to ship worldwide. The naturally processed coffee beans normally stay on the domestic market, especially popular in the Nairobi coffee market.

Is Kenyan coffee the best?

Specifying any coffee as the best would be a real wild guess. Each brew has its specifics, from aroma to flavour and the brewing method also influences the final taste. Some coffee origins have the advantage of growing in better altitudes, more generous climate, better market and economy.

But in general, Kenyan coffee belongs to some of the most unique and celebrated coffee origins. The intense acidity, floral aroma and rich fruity taste classify Kenyan coffee among the best in the world. 

What does Kenyan coffee taste like?

One of the most popular Kenya coffee brands is Kenya Peaberry coffee, a full-bodied brew with intense acidity and fruity flavours of black currant, strawberry and guava. The spicy flavour notes intertwine, as is common with Kenyan coffees.