Kenyan Origins

Kenya coffee
Kenyan speaks for itself. It has a well deserved reputation as one of the finest high grown washed Arabica's in the world. The growing conditions in Kenya are ideal for coffee. Straddling the equator, it has the altitude and volcanic soils around Mt Kenya for the Nurturing of top quality Arabica's. Production is still based on smallholder's who primarily Bourbon varieties, including the famed SL28 (Scott Laboratories), though the estates play an increasingly important role. There are over 600,000 smallholder's accounting for over half of the national production from about 75% of the national acreage. Coffee production is located in the central and eastern provinces, set against the backdrop of Africa's second highest Mountain, Mt Kenya (5199m, 17052ft). Despite the quality of Kenyan coffee, and the premium it fetches, annual production has fallen from 2.15 million bags in 1997 to under 1 million at the start of the 21st century. This fall in production has been fuelled by low international prices and competition from other crops. There is a nascent local production, with about 50,000 bags consumed annually. The Kenyan coffee sector is very structured. Small holders pick the ripe cherries, and deliver them, often only a few kilos at a time, to co-operative washing stations. Here the cherries are pulped and fermented. Plantations do this processing themselves, and in Kenya, trade in fresh cherries is not permitted. After fermentation, the coffee is washed and sun dried on drying tables. The parchment is then milled and graded into 7 categories (AA, AB, C, PB, TT, T) and miscellaneous) by a licensed mill. There are currently 6 licensed millers in the country, including the Kenya Planters co-operative Union (KPCU), which used to have a monopoly in milling. The licensed auctioneers prepare weekly catalogues of lots for sale, and samples of each lot are made in wakulima House. This not only ensures keen competition amongst the various exporters, but also secures the best possible premiums for the finest lots, and a vitally important transparency in the coffee sector. There are 2 crops per year in Kenya. The main crop is harvested from November to January, and exported from January to July. The smaller fly crop is harvested from May to July, and is exported from September to December. The best coffees are generally found in the main crop. In the past, the farmers received an annual average auction price for the category in which their coffee had been classified. More recently this system has been changed. Farmers are paid the sale price of their lot of coffee, after charges and government taxes have been deducted. This has helped to reward outstanding quality, and promote better farming practices, but has increased the market risk of the farmers. The fine acidity and full body of Kenyan is combined with a distinct berry flavor, making it a front-runner in the speciality Gourmet market.

Elevation Kabazi town 2210m, 7250 ft Main Varieties SL 28, SL 34 Cup. Citrus acidity, balanced body, blackcurrant and grapefruit tones. On a high plateau between 2200m and 2400m, this area has several large estates, and is a little way from the other main producing areas. The area is synonymous with the typical Solais. Coming from rich volcanic soils, this high-grown is well rounded, combining a sharp citric acidity, with the trade-mark black currant Kenya taste.

Elevation Nyeri town 1778m, 5830 ft Main Varieties SL 28 Cup. Bright Citrus acidity, full body, with blackcurrant and chocolate. A hundred miles north of Nairobi, Nyeri is traditionally known as the home of Kenya's 'Black Gold' - Coffee. This region borders the Aberdare National Park to the West, and Mount Kenya National Park to the east. Nyeri's production comes entirely from smallholder subsistence farmers who grow coffee as a supplementary cash crop. As one of the highest grown coffees, these coffees are often not blended, but sold as single lots, their origin known by the demarcation in the auction catalogue.

Elevation Muranga town 1585m, 5200 ft Main Varieties SL 28 Cup. Bright Citrus acidity, full body, with blackcurrant and chocolate. Once a thriving Coffee area, this area has seen a decline in production in recent years due to competition from other crops for the arable land. However, it remains one of the best respected areas in terms of quality. Like Nyeri, production from this area comes from Cooperatives.

Elevation Kiambu town 1716m, 5630 ft Main Varieties: Missionary, SL 28, SL 34 Ruiru11 Cup. Good acidity, full body, with a grapefruit flavour. When fathers of the congregation of the Holy Spirit brought Arabica trees from Ethiopia in 1893 to plant them for the first time in Kenya, they did so in Kiambu. Lying only 12 Kilometers from Nairobi, this area is predominantly estate production. The distinct grape fruit flavour from this region is known as the 'upper Kiambu' flavour profile. This is also where Karen Blixen established her famous coffee farm, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

Elevation Meru town 1617m, 5305 ft Main Varieties: SL 28, SL 34 Cup. Bright citrus acidity, full body, complex berry and fruity orange. Situated on the rolling hills of the Eastern Mt. Kenya slopes, Meru boasts being the largest producer of Kenyan coffee. Cooperatives have a strong hold in Meru and the coffee has perennially been of consistent quality. The local tribe, the Meru are related to the larger Kikuyu tribe.

Elevation Embu town 1426m, 4680 ft Main Varieties: SL 28, SL 34 Cup. Citrus acidity, full body, berry's and chocolate Well balanced driving north east from Thika toward the South-eastern slopes of Mt Kenya one reaches Embu where Coffee is the heart and soul of its people. 75% of the income of the area is generated by Kenya's 'Black Gold'. Production in Embu is the domain of the cooperatives, and the area is famed for its quality. Embu has the distinction of producing the highest percentage of AA grade Coffee.

Elevation Kerugoya town 1875m, 6150 ft Main Varieties: SL 28 Cup. Sharp Citrus acidity, full body, with clear blackcurrant flavour. On the South-eastern slopes of Mt Kenya, Kirinyaga is one of the best known regions for Coffee production in Kenya. It is dominated by smallholders, cultivating small plots on the slopes of the Mountain. The volcanic soils, and high elevation lend a sharp acidity to these coffees, and many years of processing experience and tradition ensure that the fermentation brings out the best of the flavours inherent in the Bourbon varieties.

Elevation Kangundo town 1722m, 5650 ft Main Varieties: Missionary, SL 28, SL 34 Cup. Medium acidity, full body, some fruity overtones. Nestled on the lower slopes of Ol Donyo Sapuk hill, this is some of the lowest grown Kenyan coffee. It has balanced cup, without the sharp acidity in the other areas. However, during the fly crop, this coffee comes into its own, with a better cup than found elsewhere.