Kenyan Coffee: The Unsung Beauty of Coffee

A product of Kenya’s once lush and elusive coffee farms elevated 2000m above sea level, the Kenyan coffee is often lauded as one of the best coffees in the world. The bean is loved for its distinctive taste that gives off wafts of fresh, floral aroma and its notes of bergamot, berries and lemongrass upon tasting.

Why then, with its quality and complex flavour, is the elusive Kenyan coffee not more popular or known?

Kenyan Coffee: Origins

Kenyan Coffee, while medium-bodied, lingers on the palate with its juicy and rich flavour. Photo from Louis Hansel

The Kenyan Coffee originates from the red volcanic soil on plateaus to the north and east of Nairobi. Mainly a crop grown by smaller farms and cooperatives as well as within the confines of larger estates, it yields only 2 million bags a year. In comparison to its 50 – 500 trees, a common South American coffee farm boasts 5,000 – 10,000 trees.

The best Kenyan coffee can be found within their very own local coffee roasters, who roast the beans fresh daily. More commonly, however, brands such as Starbucks and Amazon offer pre-roasted packs in stores and online. However, after roasting, the flavour diminishes the longer it is stored and when tasted, simply does not do it justice to the bean’s potential.

Poor Marketing

To examine why the Kenyan coffee goes unappreciated, it boils down to bad, if not a lack thereof, marketing. Instead of marketing to the global audience, the coffee undergoes a cooperative system of marketing. Auctions are held each Tuesday of the harvesting season and buyers engage in intense price wars.

On top of all that, managers of these farmers function with little to no oversight and constantly embezzle money from the farmers. This forces distraught farmers to sell at lower prices to brokers for fear of managers misappropriating their funds. As a result of this, coffee harvest in Kenya fall by a sharp 12%.

All this culminates in Kenyan coffee being extremely difficult to source directly and ethically. To ensure that the bean supply remains consistent in quality and traceable in its source, it would entail a large number of physical manhours. In other words, quality control is simply unfeasible.

Hard to Grow

To fully extract the flavour and complexity of a Kenyan brew, experts recommend steeping rather than the drip method. Photo from Rachel Brenner

Able to grow only on high plateaus and volcanic soil, the Kenyan coffee crops are commonly planted 1,400 – 2,000m above sea level. Categorised with an SHG (Strictly High Grown) status, the coffee bean requires ample time to grow slowly – giving the bean sufficient nutrients and its complex, strong flavour.

In addition to that, the limited growing community only produces 1% of the global coffee crop. What once were lush plantations have been replaced with shopping malls and upmarket homes.

Moving Forward

F&B giant Nestle, who buys more than 10% of the global coffee produce, is working with Kenyan farmers to improve the situation. Efforts include training farmers on proper fertiliser application and seedling supply to willing farmers.

With 600,000 coffee farmers participating in their efforts to boost coffee production in Kenya and raise awareness about the premium beans, the harvest is rising slowly but surely.

Where to Find It

As mentioned, freshly roasted Kenyan Coffee beans are the best at offering you optimum flavour and aroma. Here are some sources that offer legitimate and quality Kenyan beans.

  1. Coffee Bean Direct’s Kenyan Coffee: A reliable source that offers a slightly heavier light roast
  2. Nairobi Coffee and Tea Co.’s Kenyan Coffee: The brand focuses on being environmental stewards and ethical traders and offers full-bodied beans with a distinctive aroma.
  3. For a rarer and high-quality micro lot of coffee, Kenya Peaberry (Volcano) elevates freshness to the next level by only roasting your beans to perfection upon order.
  4. Similarly, Kenya ‘AA’ (Volcanica) roasts on order and features full, rich body coffee from the highest quality ‘AA’ beans available online.